Performing Arts

Ali MacGraw, Ryan O’Neal to deliver ‘Love Letters’ to Dallas

Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal say they were eager to co-star again.
Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal say they were eager to co-star again. ATTPAC

Talking to actors Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal in a phone interview, it’s hard to believe that these longtime friends — who have an easy rapport and a knack for finishing each other’s punch lines — are not married — nor have they been romantically involved.

This, despite the fact that it’s hard to imagine them not together for anyone who cherished their roles as Jenny and Oliver in one of cinema’s most beloved, and commercially successful, romances: Arthur Hiller’s 1970 tear-jerker, Love Story.

“That movie gave us a bond that was unbroken,” O’Neal says.

“What were the odds that that movie would have turned into something so loved and big? We had no clue,” MacGraw adds.

They each received Oscar nominations for the movie. Now touring presenters are banking on hopeless-romantic fans of that film to fill the seats in the national tour of Love Letters, a popular 1989 play by prolific playwright A.R. Gurney. The tour stops for two weeks beginning Tuesday at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas.

This tour follows the 2014 Broadway revival, starring Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow, with Alan Alda, Candice Bergen and Carol Burnett among their replacements for the short run.

Gurney’s play features two actors reading from the letters that characters Melissa and Andrew have written to each other for 50 years.

Gurney’s play features two actors reading from the letters that characters Melissa and Andrew have written to each other for 50 years in a friendship that began in childhood and lasted as their lives went separate ways and took many turns. The playwright has said that the play “needs no theater, no lengthy rehearsal, no special set, no memorization of lines, and no commitment from its two actors beyond the night of performance.”

That could be why the show, which originated off-Broadway in 1989 with Kathleen Turner and John Rubinstein and then transferred to the Great White Way with Colleen Dewhurst and Jason Robards, has been performed in numerous tours, regional productions and benefit performances.

The list of actors who have starred in it include Stockard Channing, Jane Curtin, Timothy Hutton, Christopher Walken, Lynn Redgrave, Tab Hunter and Elizabeth Taylor, to name just a few.

For MacGraw — who left the Hollywood limelight in the 1990s and has focused on advocacy for animal rescue and other causes — getting the call to do the show on tour was a no-brainer.

Gurney’s play features two actors reading from the letters that characters Melissa and Andrew have written to each other for 50 years.

“I was stunned by the offer and they said it was with Ryan and it was a perfect fit,” MacGraw says. “The script is wonderful; it’s stood the test of time. I hope [the audience gets] to experience Gurney’s script, and every beat of his language.”

O’Neal adds, “From my point of view it was a chance to work with Ali again. And they would pay us again!”

Despite Gurney’s claim about the minimal commitment level needed, Love Letters is still a challenge.

“We try to be fresh every time we perform it,” MacGraw says. “It runs a very full arc emotionally, and we try to give it everything we’ve got.”

“And then some,” O’Neal says without missing a beat.

As if their “love story” never ended.

Love Letters

  • Tuesday through April 3
  • Winspear Opera House
  • 2403 Flora St., Dallas
  • $25-$150
  • 214-880-0202; www.attpac.org
  Comments