NEW YORK (AP) — Buffalo-born playwright A.R. Gurney, who was named a Pulitzer prize finalist for his plays “Love Letters” and “The Cocktail Hour” has died. He was 86.
Gurney’s agent Jonathan Lomma said Gurney died Tuesday at his home in Manhattan. No cause of death was given.
He was a prolific writer, producing almost 50 plays during his career along with a number of musicals and three novels.Gurney’s writing offered a window into the inner lives of the upper-crust white Anglo-Saxon Protestants he grew up among.
In 2013, Gurney was News 4’s live guest, as chair of Buffalo’s “Curtain Up” celebration. He was honored with a star unveiled that evening in the Theatre District’s Plaza of Stars.
“Love Letters” charts the lives of a man and a woman — lifelong friends with a romantic connection that never quite gets to thrive — through the correspondence they exchange over half a century. Poignant, arch and artful in both what’s said and what’s left unsaid, it ranges from thank-you notes and wedding invitations to heartfelt letters. One perceptively funny scene lampoons the rose-colored-glasses tone of a family Christmas newsletter.
“Love Letters” was first done at the New York Public Library in March 1988, with Holland Taylor and Gurney himself reading the play.
The two-person play has been performed by powerhouse acting duos including Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal, Mia Farrow and Brian Dennehy, and Elizabeth Taylor and James Earl Jones, among others.
Gurney, in a 1998 interview with the Los Angeles Times, said of his penchant for writing about a fading WASP world, “I’ve been occasionally nailed by the critics for limiting my sights to a small entity, but I’ve always believed that if you’re accurate and true to what you’re writing about, the play will have a larger human dimension. People are people.”
Born in Buffalo, New York, Gurney is survived by his wife; four children; eight grandchildren, and a brother and sister.
Associated Press writer Deepti Hajela contributed to this report.