“Letters” Captures Heartbreak in a New Light

Emotive and poignant, the play gives new life to the tale of lost love

Fringe Festival performance
photo by aurora sandelands; design by xavier moron

This weekend I was able to attend the Minnesota Fringe Festival for the first time; it’s a veritable smorgasbord of veteran stage talents, young actors and actresses new to the theater, and all kinds of performance. Not knowing what to expect, I chose a venue and selected a title from a lengthy list of intriguing options.

I decided to attend the Saturday evening performance of Letters at the University of Minnesota Rarig Center. As I found my seat in the Rarig’s smaller Arena theater, I was immediately drawn into the story of protagonist Jack, who sat cross-legged in the middle of the stage, staring obsessively at a tattered green suitcase.

Over the next hour, a four-person cast told stories of lost love and heartbreak. While the plot might seem overdone at first glance, the creative and seamless melding of character, time, place and delivery gave a refreshing breath to an evergreen theme to which all audience members could relate.

Spoken word and modern dance drove the performance, the latter forging an aesthetic that made it impossible to look away. Co-creator and actor Elliott Heerman said that each cast member created his or her own monologue, creating a variety of perspectives and experiences threaded together by the central theme of lost love.

Any story is a great one if it takes you on a roller coaster of emotions, and Letters did just that. At one moment, I felt myself tearing up during a character’s angst-filled, raging spoken word. At another, more uplifting moment near the end of the performance, I felt an overwhelming sense of hope. Seeing the range of human emotions reflected in a 60-minute performance is a beautiful thing. 

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