A. R. “Pete” Gurney died last June. He was 86 years old.
The playwright holds many distinctions — including most-produced playwright in the Westport Country Playhouse’s 88-year history. Since 1980, the historic theater has produced 21 of his works.
Playhouse artistic director Mark Lamos also has a deep association with Gurney. He has directed many of his longtime friend’s plays, both off-Broadway and at the Playhouse. Some were world premieres.
At Carnegie Hall, Lamos diected Alec Baldwin in Gurney’s “Love Letters.”
So with all those connections, it’s no surprise that the Westport Country Playhouse’s annual fundraising gala features Mark Lamos directing Alec Baldwin in Pete Gurney’s “Love Letters.”
The cast for the old-friends event (April 12) also includes Westporter Kelli O’Hara, a Tony Award winner for her portrayal of Anna in “The King and I.”
Lamos first met Gurney in the early 1980s, while running Hartford Stage. The writer’s understanding of the “New England WASP gestalt” fascinated the director, who saw in Gurney’s characters some of the company’s board members and donors.
“He absolutely captures the sound of a generation of upper-class people,” Lamos says. “He hears their voices, and makes them real. He’s at the end of a long tradition of people like Henry James and John Cheever — New England-based comedy of manners writers.”
In addition, Lamos says, “Pete has a wonderful sense of humor. He has a talent for fine-tuning a joke — or taking it away.”
Twenty years ago, when Lamos and his husband moved to western Connecticut, Gurney invited them to dinner with Arthur Miller. Gurney, Lamos and their spouses became good friends.
Over the years, Lamos directed Gurney’s “Big Bill,” “The Dining Room” and others.
Since joining the Playhouse in 2009, Lamos has appreciated Gurney’s long association with the Westport theater. Jim McKenzie — executive director there for 41 years — loved the playwright’s work, Lamos says.
He’s proud to keep up the tradition.
And looking very forward to the April 12 gala, which raises funds so the Playhouse can continue producing many more intriguing, entertaining and thought-provoking plays.
By Pete Gurney — and others, too.
(For more information about the April 12 Spring Gala, including tickets, click here.)