“You don’t have to explain everything. You’re really out there yourself, without any fringes of falsehood or make-believe.”
Written by A.R. Gurney and first performed in 1988, the play follows the exchange of letters between two characters, Andy and Melissa, over the course of their lives. From childhood through adulthood, they share intimate details, funny stories and strong feelings, while also discussing their own relationship.
Though they enjoy privileged backgrounds, the things they divulge are common to everyone.
“I hope the audience doesn’t stereotype the characters,” Zaido said. “The play introduces universal messages about men and women, and how we cope in this world.”
The play was written to be performed without rehearsal, memorization, sets or costumes, but Zaido and Archer still sought direction, from Aimee Oliver.
“We’ve seen it with direction and without direction,” Zaido said. “We’ve always felt those with direction do better. The director tells you, ‘Enjoy it more, you look stiff,’ things like that.”
The early letters are written by children and the later ones by adults, so Oliver tried to help the actors remember how differently they think and feel at each stage of life.
“You help the actor relate to it so it becomes more natural,” she said. “You want to bring the audience in to the point where they feel they are in the room with you.”
Working with Oliver allowed the actors to perfect their timing, which — in a play where they don’t move on the stage — is an important part of the story’s development.
Some letter excerpts are lengthy, sharing news or arguing a point, while others respond to a previous letter with the give-and-take of a conversation in real time.
“There are dots in the script, to show that time passes between letters,” Zaido said. “We decided to count to six. The director had to teach us to slow that down.”