‘Dear Jack, Dear Louise’ review

Although retired since 2014, I still relish opportunities to teach, write, and share opinions.
What sort of play does a playwright write during a pandemic? If you are a genius like Ken Ludwig, it would be a fantastic two-character play tapping into triumph over adversity, and how love conquers all. It would be called Ken Ludwig’s Dear Jack, Dear Louise. As it so happens, this play is now at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, NJ, until November 21.
If you were lucky enough to have David Saint directing, and two phenomenal actors, Bill Army as Jack Ludwig, and Amelia Pedlow as Louise Rabiner, you would have a smash hit. Guess what? It’s now playing and you have only to get yourself to zany New Brunswick to see it. 
As we quickly discover, given the rather strong hints, this is the story of how Ken Ludwig’s parents met during World War II. Jack Ludwig is Captain Ludwig, M.D., assigned to an army hospital in Oregon. His parents from Coatesville, PA, just happen to know another couple from Brooklyn ,NY, who have a fabulous daughter who is lively, outgoing, and a musical theatre baby, whom they feel would be a perfect foil for bookish, matter-of-fact Captain Jack. And they are all Jewish. So, they encourage them to write. And write they did, since it was a long time until they finally met. 
Ludwig has stated that all the letters are his invention, since his mother destroyed the real letters. She maintained they were too personal to share. 
Put aside any concerns you may have about a two-character play being the kiss of death. Far from it. The two actors are given such great lines and with twenty feet between their character islands, they triumph. This play was written and staged this way so that it could be, if necessary, performed during pandemic guidelines. They are in constant movement, whether changing into or out of clothes, packing bags, or performing stage business, abetted by a great set with really neat rear projections of trains, maps, snow, warfare, you name it. At one point Doctor Jack takes off his shirt while responding to Louise’s letter. One lady in the audience was heard to softly say, “OOh!” It was a very arresting five minutes.
The Arthur Laurents Theater is an intimate, conducive space for such a personal play, which adds immediacy and intensity to the sterling production, and fine acting.
If you’re looking for a feel-good play, which has drama and suspense, and two great actors along with jokes and heart, get tickets to see Ken Ludwig’s Dear Jack, Dear Louise. 
For tickets and further information, visit www.nbpac.org 
or call 732-745-8000, [email protected] 
Terrence McNally’s It’s Only a Play will be onstage November 30 – December 19.

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