Dundee Rep 3 stars In these hi-tech days of texting, sexting and social media immediacy, it's hard to credit the power of an old-fashioned hand-written love letter and the yearningly painful gaps between each exchange. This probably wasn't what American playwright AR Gurney was thinking when he penned this Pulitzer Prize nominated two-hander about two people who retain an intimacy across half a century of billets-doux, but it does explain its popularity. So, however, does the play's status as a star vehicle, as many of those who packed the theatre to see former Dempsey and Makepeace TV double act and real life husband and wife Michael Brandon and Glynis Barber in action would no doubt bear witness to. Not that there's much action, as the pair sit at separate tables to give voice to the life-long romance between the dependably dull Andrew and the more mercurially self-destructive Melissa. From the moment Andrew accepts an invitation to Melissa's second grade birthday party, a bond is formed between them that moves from teenage flirtation to bad marriages to other people and beyond. In a classic portrait of opposites attracting, where Andrew turns to law, then politics, Melissa becomes a successful artist until her fragile state of being finally gives up the ghost. While affecting enough in Ian Talbot's production set against a stage wall image of skyscrapers at night, as Brandon and Barber move from the pair's initial juvenalia to the everyday tragedies of their later years, it's more reading than theatre. Only in the last twenty minutes do sparks really start to fly in a sad and funny portrait of an affair that only latterly went beyond the words that defined it.
The Herald, May 9th 2013 ends