Laying down the law on love

Two Carroll County lawyers will be taking on different roles this weekend when they stage a Valentine's Day romance at the Carroll Arts Center.

Stacy Shaffer and Paul Zimmermann will co-star in a play that tells of a relationship through the correspondence their characters exchanged.


The play, Love Letters by A.R. Gurney comes to the Westminster center for two performances tomorrow.

"There is the universal Valentine's theme of what is love and how can you best express it," said Zimmermann, Carroll County's register of wills. "The story makes you think about your feelings for another person."


Shaffer, who works for the county juvenile master, said the story "really captures a relationship over the course of a lifetime."

She plays the free-flying Melissa to Zimmermann's staid Andy in this story of a couple who meet as children and continue their relationship through their letters.

"She is the loose cannon, and he is so structured that the play lends itself to comedy," Zimmermann said.

Shaffer said, "It has its sad and its funny moments, and it will make you think of the relationships you have with people and how you connect."

The script allows the players to read their lines - or in this case, their characters' letters.

"This really is a different form of acting," Zimmermann said. "Since there is no physical movement, you are actually acting with your voice."

For Shaffer, a wife, mother of two, full-time lawyer and president of the Carroll County Arts Council board, the drama offers a chance to act without memorizing a script.

"At this stage in my life, I can't remember anything anyway," she said with a laugh.


The story, which begins in the post-World War II era, remains timely, Zimmermann said.

A veteran of community theater, he also directs Fool Proof, an improvisational acting troupe of high school students.

As the plot spins through the years, each of the characters marries another, but continues to offer each other compelling and amusing insights, Zimmermann said.

"It is poignant because the letters say things that these people can't say to each other in person," he said.

"It is timeless because emotions drive the show, and it's wry in its banter between her and him. This is basically the story of two people in love with each other but afraid to say it."

Without giving away the ending, he said, the story "shows that sometimes you need to step out on a limb and take a chance, instead of holding onto the tree trunk."


Love Letters is the kind of intimate drama ideally suited to the arts center's stage, said Sandy Oxx, director of the Carroll County Arts Council. A cast of two and no set made the play eminently presentable, she said.

"The stars were all aligned, and we just decided we had to do this," Oxx said, promising the audience "a heart-warming performance."

Tickets to tomorrow's 2 p.m. matinee are $10 each. Tomorrow's 7:30 p.m. show costs $20 a person and includes a champagne reception during intermission. The arts center is at 91 West Main St., Westminster. Information: 410-848-7272.