Photo by Jason Gillman
There are few iconic movie couples that compare to Jenny and Oliver in Arthur Hiller’s 1970s heartstring-tugger Love Story. In the film, the star-crossed lovers from very different backgrounds fall head-over-heels, only to find their romance challenged by insurmountable obstacles. And, of course, film fans will always remember that Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw portrayed the couple who famously agree that “love means never having to say you're sorry."
Off screen the duo went on to have highly publicized private lives. O’Neal twice wed Charlie’s Angels star Farah Fawcett — first from 1979 through 1997 and again from 2003 to her passing in 2009. MacGraw divorced her second husband, film producer Robert Evans, in 1972 to be with silver screen idol Steve McQueen. While theirs is a legendary romance, their marriage lasted only five years.
Now 45 years later, O’Neal and MacGraw have reunited on stage in a new production of Love Letters at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. They play, as you might expect, star crossed lovers from very different backgrounds who fall head-over-heels, only to find their romance challenged by insurmountable obstacles. But unlike the burning fast and bright romance of Jenny and Oliver, Melissa Gardner and Andrew Makepeace Ladd III’s relationship plays out over the course of 50-plus years through a series of letters.
It’s a joy to see the two older but still beautiful duo together again. The show is a great reminder of how talented McGraw is. She hasn’t acted in a film since 1997, so it’s easy to forget that she has the range to gracefully carry a character from childhood to old age — all while sitting in a chair and without the help of props or a fancy backdrop.
O’Neal shows that he can bring a crowd to tears. His turn was more subtle, as was apropos to his character. But in the final moments of the play he delivered a performance that guaranteed that there would not be a dry eye in the house.
But the real joy of this production of A.R. Gurney’s 1990 Pulitzer Prize finalist show is just simply seeing Oliver and Jenny side by side after all this time. When the performance ended and they stood to take their bows, the couple shared a kiss and walked hand and hand off the stage. The audience was thrilled and there was once again no reason for O’Neal and MacGraw to ever have to say they’re sorry.
Love Letters, directed by two time Tony-winning director Gregory Mosher, runs through Sunday, October 25 at the Bram Goldsmith Theater at The Wallis. Performances are Tuesday-Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 3 and 8 pm and Sundays at 2 and 7pm.
The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts; Bram Goldsmith Theater is located at 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210.
Tickets can be purchased in person at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts Ticket Services, by phone at 310-746-4000 or online at www.thewallis.org.