For the first time ever, Tony Dow -- the guy who portrayed "Wally Cleaver" on the TV show "Leave It To Beaver" (1957-1963) -- and his wife of 36 years, Lauren Dow, performed together in A.R. Gurney's play "Love Letters." Tony has performed the play many times before, but the shows in Cisco, Texas, on March 10 and 11 were Lauren's acting debut. And, they both were great when I had the opportunity to see the show Saturday night at Cisco College's Crawford Theater.
According to the playbill handed out at the performance, Lauren has been a model, radio and TV commercial producer, documentarian and artist. She and Tony have worked on several non-acting projects together, including restoration work on their home in California.
After Saturday night's performance, they answered questions from audience members and then stayed to sign autographs. They were both quite friendly and welcomed as many questions as the small crowd asked.
Lauren said she and Tony wrote letters to each other when they first started seeing each other (back in 1977) and that she's still a letter writer today.
"I was a pretty good poet, or so I thought," Tony said with a chuckle. "But I'd hate to go back and read them now."
The play is the same one I posted about a year ago. It's a two-character play, that features "Andrew" and "Melissa" reading the letters that they wrote to each other over the years. Through the letters, the audience follows the ups and downs in the lives of the characters.
According to Tony Dow, the couple came to the small town to perform after having met Cisco residents Pete and Val Loftin at one of his previous performances. The Loftins were so impressed with Tony's show that they set about making arrangements for last weekend's production. A portion of the proceeds are being donated to the Cisco Senior Nutrition Program and to the Friendship Meal.
Tony has performed "Love Letters" in the past with Judy Norton ("Mary Ellen" on the TV show "The Waltons), Beverly Washburn (a child actor, like Tony), Janice Kent (who played Tony's wife in "The New Leave It To Beaver"), former figure skater Tai Babilonia and actress Joyce DeWitt ("Three's Company").
But I think having a husband and wife in the roles must add another layer to the depth of the performances. After the play, Lauren told my husband and I that although she has done some public speaking in the past, this was her first time at acting. Regardless of her experience, Lauren's performance Saturday night was excellent, with just the right amount of emotions -- ranging from humor and sarcasm to fear and desperation.
I'm not sure if Tony and Lauren will continue to perform together, but if you have a chance to see a production of "Love Letters," with or without the Dows, I recommend it. It's worthy of your time, especially for those who appreciate letter writing.