A simple sepia love story? “Dear Jack, Dear Louise” is alive, despite the lack of twists and turns.

Ken Ludwig can truly tell a love story.

But an epistolary piece about a WWII GI and aspiring Broadway actress falling in love while exchanging letters first across the country and then across the Atlantic? Looks like schlock. It’s at least partly a true story of how the playwright’s parents fell in love. Danger! Personal stories so often struggle for clarity against the cloud of sentimentality and self-indulgence.

But Ludwig is an American theater giant for a reason. When he is in his acting, his work captures the emotions that animate humanity and portrays them on stage with keen insight.

These qualities propel Ludwig’s new “Dear Jack, Dear Louise”, now ushering in the return of the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick after closure with a warm and touching production. Directed by David Saint, the show features a sepia-toned love story brought to life by serious performances and Ludwig’s skillful craftsmanship.

Jack (Bill Army) is a physician from rural Pennsylvania enlisted in the Army and stationed in Medford, Oregon. Louise (Amelia Pedlow) is a dancer and actress from Brooklyn, hot to perform on the New York scene. Their parents are friends and Jack’s dad suggests writing letters. The lone soldier accepts the invitation and Louise happily agrees. The initial formality quickly fades as the two get to know each other and become more involved in each other’s distant lives. Jack works diligently as a medic and military surgeon, but expresses his frustration with the war to Louise, who spends her days singing at auditions while working odd jobs to make ends meet, having only Jack as a sounding board for his anxieties and occasional anger. .

The show is a two-person show in which the performers connect while barely looking at each other in the direction of each other and hardly ever sharing the space. On the big George Street stage, Jack and Louise each have their own set. Louise has little more than a chair and a trunk in her boarding house in New York, and Jack has shelves and a cupboard in his barracks. As the performers speak the lines of their letters, they gaze directly from the stage, as if delivering a grandiose monologue.

That a true connection can be built under such conditions hinges on the performances of Pedlow and Army, who do an impressive job of showing the growth of love and, more importantly, genuine affection. Pedlow and Army show that their characters don’t just admire or desire each other, but rather that each develops a deep investment in the life of the other. Although the performers are alone in their small, individualized stage spaces, Saint and his cast make sure to express how the oneness of their relationship defines the lives of the two characters.

The play’s slogan – “results are anything but expected” – is simply not true: everything here is expected and reasonably predictable. The play succeeds not by surprising us with twists or developments of unknown characters, but by making the familiar so fresh and quite moving.

DEAR JACK, DEAR LOUISE

George Street Playhouse

9, avenue Livingston, New Brunswick

Tickets online: https://georgestreetplayhouse.org/. Until November 21.

Patrick Maley can be contacted at [email protected]. Find him on Twitter

@PatrickJMaley. Find NJ.com/Entertainment on Facebook.

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