The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Theater will host actors for fundraiser

Benefit performanc­e of ‘Love Letters’ set for Feb. 21 in Roswell.

- By Luke Evans

Georgia Ensemble Theatre patrons are receiving a special gift this Valentine’s season: award-winning stars of stage and screen, Tony Shalhoub (“Monk,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”) and Brooke Adams (“Lend Me a Tenor,” “The Heidi Chronicles,” “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”) will be coming to the Roswell Cultural Arts Center for a one-night only performanc­e of “Love Letters” by A.R. Gurney. Shalhoub and Adams, a married couple in real life, have performed the play a handful of times for other fundraiser­s, though this will be the first time in nearly two decades that they have pulled it out.

“Tony and I did it when our daughter was at the country school the first time,” said Adams, rememberin­g the first time that they performed “Love Letters.”

“I’d say we’ve done it maybe half a dozen times,” Shalhoub clarified. “A lot of them were for different fundraiser­s at our schools when our kids were growing up.” That was nearly 20 years ago, and now they are returning to the piece, with all of the memories and feelings (both old and new) that they associate with it.

“What I’ve discovered now that Brooke and I have been reading it again is that the material feels very different. It’s a tribute to the writing, certainly, there’s a timelessne­ss about it.” However, for Shalhoub, the piece is both timeless and timely, as it intersects differentl­y with where he and Adams are in both life and love: “Now that we’re into 30 years of marriage, it just resonates differentl­y. I’ve always found it moving, but I find it moving in differ

ent ways. I like the fact that it’s one of those things that you can revisit and it will be different.”

“It just works as a reading, which so many things don’t,” Adams adds. “It’s a tried and true kind of a thing, I would say. And we’re so good in it. There’s a joy in getting back to it. It’s such a fun piece.”

The event came to be when Susan Larkin, Shalhoub’s sister and a founding company member of GET, reached out to see if Shalhoub and Adams would be interested in a benefit performanc­e. The two of them were already familiar with the company, having previously attended a couple of events. Artistic director Anita Farley recalls an event at a company member’s house, nearly 20 years ago, in which she and Shalhoub discussed the possibilit­y of having him and Adams perform at GET, but it was not until 2023 that this dream actually materializ­ed. Now, as theaters across the country find themselves in need of financial aid, Shalhoub and Adams are eager to pitch in and help support the theater.

“It’s where we started out,” Shalhoub said. “We both worked in regional theaters, small theaters, Broadway, off-broadway, and off-off-broadway.” Adams quickly added: “My father was a producer of a summer theater for my entire childhood in Flint, Michigan. We had the Flint Musical Tent, and we did summer stock, so it’s not foreign at all to me.”

Shalhoub relates their history with regional theater directly to their desire to help companies like GET. “It’s not anything new for us to come across a theater like Georgia Ensemble Theatre where, because of COVID and other issues, they’re having some challenges, and we’re always wanting to jump in.”

Given the pair’s history with “Love Letters,” it is only natural that they would choose to pull out this particular piece. Not only is it timely for them, but it is a piece they are both passionate about. Shalhoub has nothing but praise for A.R. Gurney’s writing: “He’s writing about a number of things that are just always going to be relatable. He’s writing about the passage of time, he’s writing about love, and he’s writing about writing.”

Shalhoub also connects his love for the piece to his admiration for letter-writing as he laments the seeming loss of the romantic and tactile practice: “There was a thing about writing letters. You wrote it, you sent it off, it would be floating in this sort of bubble of time; the other person would read it, they would process it, and then depending on how long they took to write back, that would speak to something else in the relationsh­ip.

“It felt like a gift,” Shalhoub explained. “It felt like it was an offering from that person to you, and vice versa. You were being given something of value and of weight, something that was precious. In fact, we held onto letters. I held onto letters from my mother, and letters from my best friends. These were things that people took a lot of time and effort and care in crafting.”

The mind is quick to associate this longing for a forgotten art with the current state of the theater industry. That’s not to say that theaters have ceased to produce moving works — quite the opposite is true — but it is a truth universall­y acknowledg­ed that appreciati­on for the theater is not what it once was. It is appropriat­e, then, that Shalhoub and Adams would choose “Love Letters” as a tool to support regional theater but also to encourage people to connect in the wake of events that have left all of us feeling disconnect­ed from one another.

“That’s one of the things that makes this piece so useful and relevant to what we’re talking about in our theater company,” said marketing director Mary Saville. “Making connection­s between people, and that generosity of spirit to communicat­e with a person and listen to a person…i think that’s really a message that people connect to and take to heart.”

 ?? Other ANDY KROPA/INVISION/AP ?? Actors Tony Shalhoub (left) and Brooke Adams, married in real life, have performed “Love Letters” for benefits.
Other ANDY KROPA/INVISION/AP Actors Tony Shalhoub (left) and Brooke Adams, married in real life, have performed “Love Letters” for benefits.

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