When: May 24-July 7 2013
It is a bold move to form a play's script entirely from recited letters. After all, there are things we simply cannot or do not put to the page -- even when the recipient is among our dearest friends. Still, this is the approach that Sarah Ruhl takes in Dear Elizabeth, her story of the thirty-year relationship between two American poets, Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, as told through their actual correspondence. The play exalts the now rarefied beauty of epistolary prose while unfurling a story of two individuals whose large intellects and equally formidable pathologies repeatedly undercut a palpable romantic longing. For all its surprising successes, Dear Elizabeth does succumb to certain expected difficulties. The couple's crucial but unspoken sentiments tend to arrive in the form of heavy-handed symbolism. Lowell, despite being by most biographical accounts a fascinating neurotic, generally appears as even-keeled as the letter-writing persona he so carefully maintained. At the same time, this kind of discrepancy is what makes the letter such an intriguing dramatic vehicle, and Dear Elizabeth such a rare treat.