by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray
Gail Burns: People have been talking about this wonderful community theatre production, so we just had to squeeze it in. And am I glad we did.
Larry Murray: And those who read this will be able to as well since it is playing at the Ghent (NY) Playhouse for one more week. Theatre people know about the comedy Lettice and Lovage which revolves around a deceitful docent who livens up her historic tours of yet another of England’s fusty* and dusty historic homes with tales from her own imagination. But anyone who has been held captive on a “historic” tour that is dull as dishwater will love the twists and turns that follow.
The playwright Peter Schaffer has always had a knack for picking colorful and interesting characters, from Mozart in Amadeus to the stableboy who blinded horses in Equus. Barrington Stage did his wonderful Black Comedy a couple of seasons ago, and I have to admit that Schaffer is one of my favorite playwrights.
Gail: I am not sure I’d rank him that high on my list. His plays, especially Equus, tend to be over wrought, and the plot is the thing I like the least here. When I reviewed the 2003 and 2004 Shakespeare & Company productions I wrote: “…[The play is] rather predictable and formulaic in that oh-so-wacky way television has trained us to expect. I enjoyed the laughs…but I would have enjoyed them more if they had supported a more serious purpose than another when-I’m-an-old-lady-I-shall-wear-purple-carpe-diem-you-can’t-take-it-with-you slab of silliness.” And “…playwright Peter Schaffer…has used the captivating character of Lettice Douffet as a way to hold the audience’s attention while he rails about everything from ugly British architecture to stifling work environments, and celebrates everything from Shakespeare to Tudor cuisine.”
I enjoyed it though because I saw it in the Spring Lawn Mansion, which played the role of Fustian House* exceedingly well, with Tina Packer and Diane Prusha in the title roles. But you saw the original London production starring Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack.