Sir Peter Shaffer’s Lettice & Lovage requires two extremely talented actresses to be successful. The Colonial Players satisfy the playwright’s requirement by casting Mary MacLeod as Lettice Douffet and Darice Clewell as Lotte Schoen.
As Lettice & Lovage begins, Lettice, a very theatrical tour guide, is lecturing — on an uninteresting historic house to completely bored clients. As she repeats the tour and adds dramatic embellishments, the clients become more engaged even as the land of truth is left far in the distance. Unfortunately for Lettice, a few complaints do make their way to the Historic Trust where Lotte works.
Lotte, a person steeped in reality and management, has to dismiss Lettice from her job because of her “embellishments.” Yet she finds herself intrigued by Lettice’s big askew personality. That’s the first act.
The second act reveals common sensibilities between the two women, as unexpected as that might be, and is a tour-de-force duet scene.
The third act takes an unexpected twist and becomes a crime-solving comedy as Lettice is accused of assaulting Lotte in what turns out to be role-playing historical execution games gone slightly awry.
While the twists in the writing don’t flow as smoothly as might be desired, the actors are fully immersed in their characters, enthralling in their depictions, funny and poignant as needed and utterly charming in all ways.
MacLeod navigates the huge role of Lettice with confidence and passion. She makes Lettice as dramatic as needed but manages to also make her vulnerable and endearing. Lotte’s character is more an onion, and Darice Clewell expertly and slowly peels away layers to reveal a more generous and kind-hearted soul than originally seen.
Supporting the two women is Danny Brooks, who is wonderfully goofy as Mr. Bardolph. He is both appropriately believable and cartoonish within seconds, which is just what the role requires.
Opening weekend saw Bronwyn van Joolen step in for the role of Lotte’s assistant, Miss Framer. She was delightfully comedic and a perfect foil for Lotte.
Jenna Ballard, Michael Forgetta and Shirley Panek also appear, as the tour clients in act one.
In an engaging manner typical of Sir Shaffer’s philosophic plays, Lettice & Lovage asks a question about the nature of truth. If truth is embellished, making it more memorable, does it become a lie? If truth remains unadorned, making it forgettable, what can it teach us?
Shaffer’s perspective is unequivocal in the stirring phrase he has Lettice call forth, “Enlarge! Enliven! Enlighten!” Happily, Colonial Players continually does a remarkable job enlivening the theater scene with thoughtful and engaging works such as Lettice & Lovage.