Opera House to present A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters

The 1891 Fredonia Opera House will present A.R. Gurney’s most frequently performed play, Love Letters, on Feb. 15 at 7:30 p.m., just in time for Valentine’s Day. The production stars Mike Randall and Christina Rausa and is directed by Paul Mockovak.

Randall and Rausa play Andy and Melissa, two childhood friends born to wealth and position, whose lifelong correspondence begins with birthday party thank you notes and summer camp postcards. Romantically attached, they continue to exchange letters throughout boarding school and college years, as well as each other’s separate marriages and careers. Andy’s last letter, written to Melissa’s mother, makes it eloquently clear how much they really meant, and gave to, each other over the course of their 50-year relationship physically apart, perhaps, but spiritually as close as only true lovers can be. Director Mockovak mounts this production as a staged reading, a format intended by the playwright.

Randall has performed a variety of roles in theatres across the country; and he continues to present his critically acclaimed, one-man portrayal of American author Mark Twain in Mark Twain Live! He has made more than 2,000 appearances as the great American humorist and appears annually at the “Huck Finn Jubilee” in California as the festival’s “official Mark Twain.” In 2007, he launched his solo presentation Charles Dickens Presents: A Christmas Carol, which he performs annually throughout western NY.

Randall is known to local audiences primarily for his daytime job as senior meteorologist for WKBW-TV and as an award-winning feature reporter. He attended Onondaga Community College for radio and TV and SUNY Geneseo for theatre arts. He received his certificate in Broadcast Meteorology from Mississippi State University and has earned both the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association Seals of Approval. He remains the only local TV meteorologist to hold both seals.

A professional actress for more than 30 years, Rausa has worked regionally and toured extensively throughout New York state and in Ohio and Pennsylvania. A two-time recipient of Buffalo’s prestigious stage award “The Artie,” for her portrayal of Emily Dickinson in William Luce’s The Belle of Amherst and for ensemble work in Ronald Harwood’s The Dresser, she also was an Artie nominee for her work in Educating Rita by Willy Russell. Rausa is the recipient of the Ann Burnstein Award for service to the community through radio and drama.

In 2009, she received rave reviews for her portrayal of Golda Meir, Israel’s “Iron Lady,” in Golda’s Balcony at Buffalo’s Jewish Community Center. Most recently, she was praised for her turn as Maria Callas in Master Class at Musicalfare. An adjunct instructor in the Department of Theater and Dance at SUNY Fredonia, she currently can be seen and heard on numerous regional and national radio and television commercials.

Mockovak’s diverse background in Musical Theatre, Concert Dance, Theatre Arts and Music serves him well as a stage director and choreographer as well as in the acting and dance studio/classrooms at SUNY Fredonia where he is a professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance. With an M.F.A. in Musical Theatre from the University of Miami, he has stage direction and choreography credits ranging from musicals to Shakespeare seen from summer stock to off-Broadway and from the East Coast to the Rockies in venues including regional and educational theatre, concert dance, opera and video.

As a dancer he trained at the Martha Graham School, Lynn Simonson’s Dance Space and has performed with Ballet Randolph, Dance Miami and the Miami Opera. He has served as Movement Instructor for the Santa Fe Opera, as guest artist in residency at the Vienna Ballet Konservatorium and Musical Theatre specialist for Russian acting students from the Moscow Art School Studio.

Tickets for Love Letters are $15 ($13 for Opera House members, $10 students) and may be purchased in person at the Opera House Box Office or by phone at 679-1891, Tuesday-Friday, 1-5 p.m. Tickets may be purchased online anytime at www.fredopera.org. The performance is presented with support from the United Arts Appeal of Chautauqua County.