Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Lettice and Lovage
Also see Fred's review of The King and I
Lettice is a stuffy tour guide who gives people a detailed sense of Fustian House, a dated and boring home in England which, on a dreary day, does little for those listening in. Everyone would rather be somewhere else and is, at the very least, distracted. So, Lettice, seemingly tired of even herself, begins to spin fabrications when another group appears. Spurred by positive reactions, Lettice augments the embellishments. She seems to have created a niche! Finally, however, Lotte Schoen, representing Preservation Trust and on the scene for one of the talks, makes it known that she must have more than a word or two with Lotte.
The women get together and Lettice explains that her mother was a performer who lived by a dictum of "Enlarge! Enliven! Enlighten!" Lotte brings with her a collection of letters from tourists who were a bit miffed with Lettice; Lotte fires Lettice.
The second act finds Lettice holding her cat Felina. Lotte drops by the basement dwelling place and explains that she will help Lettice find another job. The women evolve as drinking buddies and excellent friends. Lotte is secure enough to demonstrate that she's wearing a wig and the second act concludes when Lettice removes it.
Mr. Bardolph (Whitehead) arrives on stage in act three and it seems that Lotte did suffer an injury. The two women have taken to enacting executions. We also learn that a man of whom Lotte was quite fond made bombs. The effective Paxton, who has impeccable timing, gets in the midst of everything ... ultimately, all is pretty much well and people watching the proceedings receive a toast from the actresses.
Peter Shaffer's play is British in feel and look, to be sure. The settings (thanks to designer John Arnone) are quite appropriate. Jane Greenwood's varied costuming is an important ingredient during, especially, this show's initial hour. Lettice and Lovage first opened in London in 1987 and an American production received both Tony nominations and awards in 1990.
The leading ladies gather quite often to render historical scenes out of their imagination and here the play is delightfully humorous. At first, they seem opposite types but, as the story unfolds, this is less certain. For the most part, the scripting is clever and Lamos moves the action briskly forward. The cumulative result is rewarding theater. Its intent is neither to confound nor challenge a theatergoer.
Kandis Chappell and Mia Dillon, each seasoned actresses, make for an enticing and terrifically comedic complementary pair. It seems as if these two have been on the circuit together or at Westport Playhouse forever. They parry, each listens, one pronounces, the other reacts. Call this exemplary acting. Whitehead steals a scene with a couple of physical gestures. He actually assumed the same character for the first Broadway production (which starred Maggie Smith).
Playwright Shaffer's satirical glance at English customs and bureaucracy carries the first act and does not grow old. The current presentation, performed with specificity, is either mildly or constantly funny, according to an observer's mood or receptivity.
Lettice and Lovage continues at Westport Country Playhouse in Westport, Connecticut through June 17th, 2017. For tickets, call (203) 227-4177 or visit www.westportplayhouse.org.