BWW Review: Charisma and Chemistry Abound Between Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal in LOVE LETTERS
In 1970, Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal starred in Love Story, the most talked about film of its day, most notably for its unhappy ending. It told the tale of Harvard Law student Oliver Barrett IV and music student Jennifer Cavilleri, a young couple from very different backgrounds who put their hearts on the line for each other, only to have fate step in and take it all away.
Like so many other college students that year, I waited in line in Westwood for hours to see the film several times, making sure to take lots of tissues with me. What was even more remarkable about the experience was seeing young men crying as they walked out of the theater with their arms around their dates. And no one was embarrassed by their heartfelt tears.
The undeniable chemistry between Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal is on full display again in Love Letters, a special theatrical tour that officially launched this week at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. From the moment these two entered the stage holding hands, the audience was totally ready to be swept away into a very different yet in so many way similar tale of two lovers doing their best to just love and be honest with each other throughout their lives even though most of it was spent apart. And we were not disappointed.
Critical praise for Love Letters began in July during the U.S. tour's preview Florida engagement. "The forever-linked co-stars of the 1970 movie Love Story are delivering something more than Gurney's 1988 play: long-ago cinematic love and loss, nostalgia, the easy warmth of long-time friends," said the Miami Herald. "In between, O'Neal and MacGraw bring Gurney's rich characters to life in heartbreak and tears (and with lots of audible gasps from the audience). Certain truths about the heart don't change. And neither do the chemistry and charisma of the Love Story/Love Letters stars."
I could not have said it better myself.
I have seen Love Letters before with other real-life couples reading the lifetime of letters exchanged between Andrew and Melissa, two friends from similiar backgrounds who meet in second grade and then choose very different career paths, keeping them physically apart for most of their lives. But MacGraw and O'Neal seem so connected in their hearts and souls, this time the two characters were so remarkably real, their heartache and angst about life and love, as well as each other, was palpable from moment to moment as their lives unfolded both separately and together, including bouts with alcoholism and the world of political intrigue. A tip of the hat to these two skilled actors who conveyed such brutal honesty about all the emotions surrounding love, life and loss - while sitting together at a table center stage, reading from letters in notebooks.
Love Letters by celebrated American playwright A.R. Gurney, an enduring romance about first loves and second chances, continues through Sunday, Oct 25, on Tuesday-Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 3 and 8pm, and Sundays at 2 and 7pm at the Bram Goldsmith Theater at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, directed by two time Tony-winning director Gregory Mosher.
There will be two post-performance "Talk-Backs" with the stars on Thursday, Oct 15 and Thursday, Oct 22 immediately following the show. I am sorry to miss those as I certainly would love to hear the stars share stories ranging from their history-making film through reuniting to perform Love Letters. Perhaps a song from the day might be appropriate... "What a long, strange trip it's been."
More information at www.LoveLettersOnTour.com.
Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw. Photo by Austin Hargrave.
Ali MacGraw, Ryan O'Neal. Photo by Austin Hargrave.