If going to the theater and watching a man and a woman read a lifetime of their correspondence sounds like a snooze-fest, you could be correct. But what if it’s Jeff Daniels and Sigourney Weaver who take to the stage in A. R. Gurney’s “Love Letters,” the popular Pulitzer Prize-nominated drama?
The answer will be revealed Saturday, July 26 when the film stars appear in a live stage performance to benefit The Purple Rose Theatre Company at the Detroit Film Theatre located behind the Detroit Institute of Arts. “It shouldn’t work, it really shouldn’t,” Daniels said of the somewhat unorthodox play. “Pete Gurney, who wrote it, is real specific about what he wants: Don’t elaborate on it, don’t start acting it, don’t start getting up and walking around the desk.”
And don’t memorize it.
“It’s just the words and letters of these two people, from the time when they’re children all the way to their 70s or whatever. It spans a lifetime, and Pete does a great job of laying that out. And surprisingly, as an evening of theater, it works,” Daniels said.
That’s especially true when the performers are of Daniels’ and Weavers’ caliber. “You read through it once in the afternoon, and you come back at night and read it again,” Daniels said of the rehearsal and performance process. “For actors who are busy and don’t have time to rehearse for a week, it’s perfect.”
The Detroit performance won’t be the first time the two have collaborated on “Love Letters.” They got to know one another while filming the 2004 movie “Imaginary Heroes,” and when Daniels was starring last year in the off-Broadway production “Blackbird,” Weaver called with an interesting proposition. “She and her husband Jim Simpson have a theater company in New York, The Flea Theater, and she asked if I’d do ‘Love Letters’ with her. I said, ‘Well, yeah. I’ll do it for you if you’ll do it for me.’ And she said, ‘Yeah, OK.’ So we did The Flea Theater thing last June (2007) and raised a lot of money.”
It’s a response Daniels is hoping will be duplicated locally. “Like every non-profit in this economy, we need help,” he explained.
Given the show’s pedigree, “Love Letters” should be a smashing success. “It’s kind of a special thing to bring in Sigourney Weaver, you know?” Daniels grinned when asked why people should attend the one-night-only event. “She really is a wonderful actor. And it’s Sigourney Weaver at the DIA – and I’m holding a chair out for her. That in itself…”