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'Lovers and Patriots' playing Saturday only

"Love Letters" (1989) by A.R. Gurney is a two-character — play that uses their correspondence to recount a romance from grade school — through middle-age. It has gone round the world. If his protagonists are — fictional, those in "Lovers and Patriots" - a play by Gary L. Anderson, — adopting much the same format - are absolutely factual. A special preview — performance of the American Legends Theatre Works production was held — Oct. 11 at the Ashland Unitarian Center. There will be one actual production — here on Saturday at 8 p.m.

Anderson's characters come right out of history - none — other than John Adams (1735-1826) who became the second President of the — United States, and his wife, Abigail (1744-1818). They conducted a copious — correspondence over many years, though the play confines itself to the — period 1774-1777. The name Abigail recalls another resourceful woman in — the Bible who averted a hostile attack by David and his followers by taking — provisions to them and later became his wife.

John and Abigail married in 1764 - he was 29, she 20 - — and they had five children (three boys and two girls). Despite a meager — formal education, she avidly lapped up history and blossomed into a prolific — letter-writer, commenting on the momentous times and the minutiae of motherhood, — often with wry humor. She once suggested that she burn all the correspondence, — but John shrewdly would have none of it and told her: "You must keep these — letters; they may exhibit to our posterity a kind of picture of these — times." She ran a farm and raised her family almost single-handedly while — her husband was away on political business.

The action of the play takes place in Philadelphia, Penn., — in Braintree, Mass., and on the floor of the Continental Congress. The — setting consists of two desks, each with coverlet, chair, and inkwell — and quill, separated symbolically on either side of a display featuring — the Stars and Stripes and underneath a large picture of John and Abigail — as they were. There is a plank in the foreground used by John for some — of his political discourse in Congress.

The play covers turbulent time indeed, running the gamut — of politics, war, social issues, religious faith, family concerns, and — women's rights. John, an able lawyer, with a farmer's blood in his veins, — often spoke out about the British rule of the Colonies and participated — as a member in the Continental Congress. He was instrumental in getting — George Washington appointed as Commander-in-Chief of the colonial forces. — He also helped with the resolution of May 10,1776 that claimed American — Independence.

One is grateful for the moments when John and Abigail — leave their desks for physical interplay and affection, temporarily not — letter readers but flesh and blood. Gary L. Anderson, who directs the — play, wears elegant period attire; he embodies John's demeanor, his fierce — independence, and is the patriot to the core. Yet to Abigail he is tender — and teasing. Anderson's stage credits include Henry Higgins in "My Fair — Lady" and his one-man show as Clarence Darrow.

Victoria Graham, a member of the Jefferson Repertory Company — in Redding, Calif., has appeared in many musicals, particularly Sondheim's, — and has a chance here to sing "I Call You my Dearest Friend," a paean — to her husband. Prettily costumed, she is always the capable confidant, — delightfully playful on occasion, and in one scene convincingly with child.

One's attention sometimes wanders because of the detail — the play packs in, though much of it is pertinent to the America of today. — For all that, "Lovers and Patriots" should be all delight to the history — buff. The suggested donation for general admission is $12 and for students — $5.