Letts first made his name as a playwright, writing the transformative comedies "Killer Joe" and "Bug." His "August: Osage County" won the Pulitzer, although the play resorted more to theater conventions and cliches than his original earlier work.
A fervent stage actor for Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater, Letts took his career to a new level by winning a Tony for his performance as George in a Broadway revival of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf."
Earlier, he gave a memorable portrayal in the same role for Atlanta's Alliance Theater. Building theatrical magic with the late Margo Skinner as Martha, Letts gave the character intense believability in one of the best productions in Atlanta theatrical history.
Building on his stage background, Letts has turned in an impressive series of TV and movie performances as angry white males who soften their curmudgeon's bitterness with interludes of wounded tenderness. Like another bearer of his name, Spencer Tracy, Letts registers the embattled dignity of the aging male, with more of a sense of underlying threat.
Winger, who rose to stardom as a young actress in sexy roles that defined American femininity for her generation (sorry, Meryl), stepped away from her career in frustration at Hollywood's inquities for women. She returned in middle age for a range of wonderful performances. Unlike Letts, she's forged most of her career playing movie roles.
"The Lovers," written and directed by Azazel Jacobs, allows Letts and Winger to fence and feint with the full range of their acting talents. Each embroiled in affairs, their mutually disillusioned characters are ready to end their marriage until their passion for each other rekindles unexpectedly.
Letts gives a funny, disturbing performance as a middle-aged man looking for shards of beauty and meaning in his mundane, disappointed life. Duplicitous and manipulative, he also shows warmth and humor. Winger plays her role with a full palate of weariness, sensuality, sadness and humor.
Tyler Ross overacts as their son, a millennial snowflake who displays unconvincing devastation at his parents' troubles. Jessica Sula as his girlfriend possesses the exotic sensuality that promises future film stardom.
Aidan Gillen of "Game of Thrones" and "The Wire" renown also makes an appearance, turning in a labored performance in which his Irish accent comes and goes. As Letts' adulterous flame, Melora Walters also over-emotes.
Jacobs' script delivers sardonic worldplay, emotional despair and impulsive passion. Letts and Winger, new versions of Albee's George and Marsha, deliver the grace notes.