“Dear Jack, Dear Louise” is a comic valentine at George Street Playhouse

Man standing in a green uniform and a woman on the left sitting on a chair
(L to R) Amelia Pedlow & Bill Army in KEN LUDWIG'S DEAR JACK, DEAR LOUISE at George Street Playhouse. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

The actors bring real depth to their characters

Man and woman talking to each other on antique phones
(L to R) Amelia Pedlow & Bill Army in KEN LUDWIG’S “DEAR JACK, DEAR LOUISE” at George Street Playhouse. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

The George Street Playhouse is back with live theatre at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center. As their first offering after 20 months of darkness, they present Dear Jack, Dear Louise by Ken Ludwig, writer of such plays as Lend Me a Tenor and Murder on the Orient Express, as well as the musical Crazy for You. This time, Ludwig has come up with a comic valentine to his parents, and the millions of couples kept apart by warfare but held together by the lifeline of handwritten letters.

Based on letters his parents wrote to each other during World War II, this epistolary play is by turns romantic and wryly funny. It’s 1942, and America has just entered the Second World War. The fathers of army medic Jack Ludwig (Bill Army) and aspiring actress Louise Rabiner (Amelia Pedlow) have suggested they write to each other. They do, and we follow them getting to know each other and their maturing during wartime through the letters they write—and the communication shortfalls and misunderstandings that can come with any written messages.

Man in a brown military uniform
Bill Army in KEN LUDWIG’S “DEAR JACK, DEAR LOUISE” at George Street Playhouse. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

Both Bill Army and Amelia Pedlow bring depth to their characters as we see them change and grow and fall in love. It does not spoil the delightfulness of this play to say that I think Pedlow’s Louise gets more of the laugh lines in the beginning, especially in her hilarious description of a visit with Jack’s family. However, Army’s Jack holds his own, especially in later scenes when he has been shipped off to Europe and must face—and try to describe to Louise—the horrors and loneliness of warfare.

Artistic Director David Saint has skillfully guided his actors throughout their evolving relationship. James Youman’s set design is simple yet flexible, well-matched by his scenic projections.

Man and a woman on stage with small lights around them to look like stars
(L to R) Bill Army & Amelia Pedlow in KEN LUDWIG’S “DEAR JACK, DEAR LOUISE” at George Street Playhouse. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

This play is a delicious confection yet with a solid core of realism. Ludwig has outdone himself, which is no small feat. While the play uses strobe effects and the sound of explosions, which may bother some in the audience, it is a perfect piece to welcome us back to live theatre at the George Street Playhouse. I heartily recommend spending two hours at the moving romantic comedy that is Dear Jack, Dear Louise.

Dear Jack, Dear Louise is presented by the George Street Playhouse at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center through November 20th. The Center requires proof of vaccination and a photo ID to enter, and masks must be worn at all times inside the building. For more information or to order tickets, go to georgestplayhouse.org or call 732-246-7717.

In the interests of transparency: Allen Neuner, our theatre reviewer, is employed by the George Street Playhouse in their Patron Services Office.

Allen Neuner is the theater reviewer at Out in Jersey magazine. Jersey born and raised, Allen went to his first Broadway play in 1957 and has been deliriously in love with live theater ever since. Allen has recently been accepted into the American Theatre Critics Association, a professional organization of theatre reviewers. He has been partnered to music reviewer Bill Realman Stella, with whom he is also deliriously in love, for over 20 years. They live in an over-cluttered house in Somerville.