THEATER: The Last of the Love Letters OFF-BROADWAY: Atlantic Theater Company
Premise: Two actors enact love letters to exes in two monologues. You (played by playwright Mgozi Anyanwu) is at her ex’s apartment, packing her things as she reads the letter and You No. 2 (Daniel J. Watt) is in some sort of institution in which he is forced to take medication, reads his letter (or a series of letters) to his ex before he feels he might forget her. What is never mentioned in the letters but becomes clear in the staging is that the world is going through some unspecified, seismic change, leading to an urgency to the ordinariness of the letters themselves.
My Take: I am not a fan of monologue plays in which more than one actor appears, with Brian Friel’s “Faith Healer” being the most famous. In plays with more than one character, I want to see their interactions more than how they orate their interpretations of a what has happened. I was a fan of Anyanwu’s last play, “Good Grief,” but her dramaturgy is a bit askew here. The letters themselves are ordinary and rather banal. Neither Yous gives us any fresh insight about love and break-ups. It’s only with director Patricia McGregor’s foreboding atmospheric choices, especially in You No.2’s much longer section, that I had a glimmer of hope that something more significant or profound was to come. (It never came.)
VIP: Twi McCallum’s sound design did a lot of the heavy lifting to create a world beyond the letters. You’s monologue is pretty naturalistic until McCallum’s sound design sort of caps the ending with foreboding menace. And the stage picture in You No. 2’s story is always made more interesting with the sounds and echoes McCallum provides.