There are two other roles, Father Hashimoto (Thom Sesma), and Amelia, a onetime colleague of Suresh’s, played by Kellie Overbey — who originated the role of Ilana, which makes her appearance in this different guise a little confusing. “Letters of Suresh,” sweet and even soppy, finds its characters in various stages of heartbreak, with no fracture fully healed. Mixing originality and cliché, the play surveys the near impossibility of connection, a theme reflected in its structure, in which everyone, more or less alone onstage, speaks their truths into a void. It offers up its metaphors — that paper bird, the heart of a whale — with a hand as heavy as an anvil. “Letters and origami,” Amelia muses. “These ancient, archaic art forms of folding paper into something else.”
Adrales keeps the pacing sprightly, and the actors mostly resist the pull of sentiment. (Shawn Duan’s projections, which have the screen saver quality of most projections, don’t exactly help.) A play, though, is also a way of making paper (a script) into something else (a show), and “Letters of Suresh,” despite its adroit, layered performances, never executes that transformation fully, persisting as a literary work rather than an entirely theatrical one.
Joseph wrote the play before the pandemic, which seems prescient. With everyone homebound and exhausted by Zoom, letter writing experienced a brief vogue. But we can see each other in person now. And as of late summer, we can see live theater, too. “Letters of Suresh,” though, mostly withholds the pleasures of dialogue and interaction. It gives us paragraphs, signed sincerely and very truly, instead.
Letters of Suresh
Through Oct. 24 at the Tony Kiser Theater, Second Stage Theater, Manhattan; 2st.com. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes.