Unavoidably, because it's based on letters, the play sometimes feels static or repetitive, but it builds to a touching and unsentimental ending.
Germinal has mounted an engaging production. The theater's small stage is cleverly utilized, divided into two playing areas, with Hanff's cluttered apartment behind the bookshop. Sallie Diamond's portrayal of Hanff is fully felt and properly eccentric; the woman is all sloppy feeling, tempered by intelligence and a rueful, New York-style irony. Diamond was having some trouble with her lines on the preview night I attended, and as a result, the pacing was off, but that should have corrected itself by now. Frederic J. Lewis is perfect as Frank Doel, bringing a diffident intelligence to the role. It feels as though there's real warmth between Lewis and Diamond, and also among the other cast members -- Jenny MacDonald as a fine-featured Cecily, Heather Day as bright, pretty Megan, and Todd Webster efficiently self-effacing as Bill. Though 84, Charing Cross Roadcouldn't be more different from Germinal's last venture -- an adaptation of James Joyce's Ulysses-- director Ed Baierlein and his actors are still paying tribute to the power of language.