YOU DON'T HAVE to drive to Baltimore or refinance the house for expensive tickets to see some wonderful theater. Starting tomorrow evening and running for seven performances, Love Letters," a play by A. R. Gurney, will be performed by and Harry Langmead in our own back yard, at the Baust Church parish hall. Tickets cost $10.
Immanuel Baust United Church of Christ in Tyrone is sponsoring the play to benefit the restoration of the stained-glass windows at the historic church. The actors are performing free of charge.
I watched the dress rehearsal Tuesday night, and although fits of sleet and hail buffeted the building, the performance took me years away to the warm and enduring friendship of Melissa and Andy, the characters in the play.
"Love Letters" is a two-person show, staged on a simple set -- two desks, two chairs, two lamps and two performers in front of a draped black curtain.
It's an intimate play for the old church hall, which, in a former life, was one of Carroll's one-room schools.
The essence of the play, an intensely personal dialogue between the characters, is enhanced by the character of the building.
Ms. Crooks and Mr. Langmead give wonderful performances as Melissa Gardner and Andy Ladd, two people whose friendship goes back to the second grade. In the play, they are adults who take turns reading the letters they have written to each other over the years.
From accepting birthday party invitations to letters they sent each other during the long months and years of summer camp, boarding school and college, the correspondence explores the times, their families, their individuality and their relationship.
The play is warm and wonderful, but don't expect something sweet.
The strength of the performance is its simplicity. No gimmicks, no special effects, no fancy costumes or music are necessary to make this play come alive -- just two performers using their magnificent voices and body language to relay the powerful, sensitive and sometimes humorous dialogue.
The straight-arrow Andy is a nice guy from a good family who aims to please his parents and always do the right thing. Melissa is an only child whose artistic bent and earthy nature baffle and attract Andy. Andy loves to write letters; Melissa merely tolerates it.
Ms. Crooks and Mr. Langmead, whose stage credits include performances at the Spotlighters and Stage Door dinner theaters, have a rapport and enthusiasm for their work that is evident on stage. Both are Carroll residents who enjoy working in community settings. Ms. Crooks recently performed at Taneytown Senior Center with Valley Theater Company.
The idea of transforming the church hall into a fund-raising theater came to Bob Miller, a member of the Baust congregation and organizer of this event, when he was brain-storming with Ms. Crooks, a friend who had shared bleacher seats with the Millers as they watched their sons and godsons play football at Francis Scott Key High School. Ms. Crooks and Mr. Langmead looked over the church hall and decided to try a play that would be appropriate for a small-scale setting.
They came up with "Love Letters," and everyone hopes the play will start a tradition of professional theater at the Northwest Carroll church.
According to Mr. Miller, Baust's congregation is as enthusiastic about the performance as it is about restoring the stained-glass windows. "The entire church is rallying around to help," he said.
Six shows -- Friday and Saturday, April 19-20 and 26-27 are scheduled at 8 p.m. A matinee will be offered April 21 at 2: 30 p.m. Tickets are available at the door, Cal Bloom's Barber Shop and the Trendsetters Family Salon.
Baust United Church of Christ is at 2940 Old Taneytown Road. Information: 848-0923, 876-9299, 751-1237.
Quilts that will be auctioned for the benefit of Brethren Church's Mid-Atlantic District response efforts are on display at New Windsor Service Center's International Gift Shop until the end of the month. The quilts will be sold at the auction at Carroll County Agricultural Center on May 4, beginning at 12: 15 p.m. Information: 635-8711.
Hall of Fame
More than a day trip, and worth an overnight stay: Cooperstown, N.Y., and the Baseball Hall of Fame. It was a trip we had promised our baseball-crazed 11-year-old son for his recent birthday.
"It was everything I expected, and more," he said, and already is asking when we'll go back.
Earl Weaver, former Orioles manager, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer, but I'd recommend going before the crowds. We practically had the place to ourselves, and could thoroughly enjoy every exhibit and take pictures at leisure.
Our son enjoyed looking at the championship trophies, I was impressed by the humbleness of Hank Aaron's locker, our daughter liked the introductory movie and my husband stared in awe at Willie Mays' glove.
It was about 25 degrees outside, but inside the Hall of Fame, it was summer.
Pub Date: 4/11/96