Unlikely pen pals

Nowadays letters in the mail seem to be a thing of the past.  When opening mailboxes we receive bills, coupons, and occasional holiday cards.  Email, texting, and social media are the norm now.  “84, Charing Cross Road” transports us back to a time when letter writing was the mass form of communication and what a lovely display it is.

“84, Charing Cross Road” is the story of a woman, Helene Hanff, who lives in New York.  She is a writer and a book lover in search of British literature.  She writes letters to a bookstore called Marks & Co. in England.  Her letters cover a 20 year period starting in 1949 and are primarily addressed to the chief buyer, Frank Doel.  After a while the entire staff starts writing letters to Ms. Hanff as well.  Along with exchanging letters about books, she starts sending packages for Christmas, birthdays, and food parcels since Britain has a food shortage during World War II.  Although Helene has never met the staff they share personal stories and become friends over the years.

Maggie Bearmon Pistner does an incredible job playing the role of Helene Hanff.  With so many lines to memorize it’s a wonder she gets through the whole show!  Dann Peterson plays Frank Doel who she writes back and forth with.  He and his staff are always excited to get letters from her as well as packages filled with goodies.  The staff has some speaking lines but most of the story consists of the two lead characters sharing confidences.  It seems to be a rigorous swap but they execute it very well.

The set and props were tastefully done.  I am a lover of libraries and it was nice to walk in and feel like I was in one.  There were books all around the room and since the theatre is in the round it was as if you were part of the shelves.  The costumes were perfect for the time period.  The girls in the shop wore long skirts with blouses and the men wore suits.

This was my first visit to Theatre in the Round and I highly enjoyed it and recommend it.  It is located on the west bank of the University of Minnesota.  If you love letter writing and good acting this is the show for you!  “84, Charing Cross Road” is playing now through Dec 9th.  For more information contact Theatre in the Round:

Website: http://www.theatreintheround.org/

Phone: 612 333 3010

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