A set divided between traditionally masculine and feminine 1940s interiors, with letters raining down a gauze backdrop set expectations for the delightful Dear Jack, Dear Louise. Beautifully played by Casey Hoekstra and Sarah Price, this intense two-hander touched the major highs and lows of any romantic relationship, with the twist that it all happened by letter. Even infidelity at the height of fear on the battle lines was made funny by the lengthy apologies and excuses, pointing out ’but you and I have never actually met’
The actors communicated to one another, often in close proximity, without ever looking at one another. It was curiously effective and affecting. As Jack loosened up and became more communicative, he became physically more attractive and sympathetic. Both characters endured hardship, loss, and dread of fear, in entirely different ways, and it is to Ken Ludwig’s great credit that Louise did not become a caricature of a woman clueless to the reality of war. The audience felt her highs and lows with her, they were real and valid, if less dramatic than Jack’s tending to horrifically wounded teenagers. He based the play on his own parents’ wartime correspondence, and the director Jessica Fisch brought similar familial experience into bringing the show to life - she even had her grandmother 9in her 90s) zoom into rehearsal to share her first-hand memories of relationships based and sustained by letter writing.
The play was a great success, both predictable and gripping, taking the audience with the couple every (mis)step. We cursed the superior army doctor who would not grant us leave, gaped at the tricks Louise suffered at the hands of Jack’s family, and all held our breath as the inevitable final scene of meeting opened, with the stage expanding beyond the backdrop rendered at last to a well-renederd crowd scene of confusion and celebration.
A delightful evening at the theater - a story well told. I wondered if the reading of letters would have made a better radio play, but no, the staging, costume, and physicality made the stories more immediate, and less a collection of monologues than real conversations.
Location: Northlight Theatre is located at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie
Regular run: $30-$89
Student tickets are $15, any performance (subject to availability)
Box Office: The Box Office is located at 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie.