Friends Until the End

Some friendships are passing, ending rapidly or perhaps just fading away. However, other friendships prove to be lifelong bonds, with both sides showing love, support and compassion.

This weekend, Live Theatre Workshop will present a play depicting a lifelong bond that stays strong, no matter the dilemmas placed before the two friends. It is called Love Letters, and the title speaks for itself.

Love Letters focuses on Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and Melissa Gardner, two friends who meet during their elementary school years and create a special connection. They both come from wealthy families, and are sent to different boarding schools at a young age. Even though Ladd and Gardner become extremely close, their lives are pushed in different directions.

Though separated physically, they keep in touch through letters, camp postcards and birthday cards. As they grow up, they become opposites in many ways: Ladd is extremely conservative and walks a straight line throughout his life, while Gardner is a free spirit who lives life to the fullest, letting the chips fall where they may—yet their differences do not ruin the bond that they share.

Through time, Ladd and Gardner begin to have feelings for each other, but they do not explore those feelings, in fear of jeopardizing their friendship.

"A person can relate to the play, because some people have that one close friend they might feel strongly for, but are afraid to lose the friendship if things do not work out in a relationship," said Sabian Trout, the director of Love Letters. "Ultimately, the friendship is more important than anything else."

Carlisle Ellis plays Melissa Gardner—a role she's played before on a Tucson stage (in 2004, at the late, lamented Wilde Playhouse). George Dobbs plays Andrew Makepeace Ladd III in the play that's popular among theater companies of all sizes, because it is inexpensive to produce and requires minimal rehearsal—yet is an audience favorite.

"The play will have the audience wanting the two childhood friends to fall in love with one another, but the main focus is around Ladd's and Gardner's friendship," Trout said. "The audience might get a sense of what would have happened if these two friends started a relationship with one another, but our plan is to show how a lifelong friendship can be."

Trout discussed how the characters become closer throughout the years without being physically present in each other's lives.

"Both characters stay in touch by the letters they send, and express deep emotions that makes their friendship stronger," Trout said. "Both friends bear their souls with the other in their letters, and the audience will feel just how strong the bond between Ladd and Gardner really is. Even though the two are not in each other's lives physically, they are spiritually present, which makes their friendship much more special."

Trout said Love Letters is staged differently from most of the other pieces she has worked on during her years of directing. The play has only two actors, sitting on opposite sides of the stage, facing the audience and reading the letters—the main focus is on the dialogue.

"It is an original piece in a sense that there is no extra material, like wardrobe, backgrounds and fancy lights in the play. Love Letters focuses more on the writing material that Ladd and Gardner exchange, and on how they keep their friendship alive throughout the years," Trout said. "I have never worked on a play that was written in this style before, and it is one of a kind in the sense that it's so well-written, so there is really no need for extra material."