TheatreFest crowd favorites JoAnne Dickinson and Lynda Clark add new laurels to their acting crowns with their cheeky characterizations in University Theatre at N.C. State’s knee-slapping production of English dramatist and screenwriter Peter Shaffer’s hilarious 1987 buddy comedy Lettice and Lovage.
JoAnne Dickinson is a delight as ditzy docent Lettice Douffet, who enlivens tours that she leads through a dreary old pile called Fustian House in Wiltshire, England, with lurid — and clearly apocryphal — tales about a near-fatal fall on a Fustian House staircase by Queen Elizabeth I, who was rescued just in time by her host, whom she promptly knighted.
Since nothing historic or remotely interesting has ever happened at Fustian House, Lettice cannot see the harm in spicing up her running commentary. But humorless government bureaucrat Lotte Schoen (played by Lynda Clark), who works for the Preservation Trust that oversees these historic properties, is outraged and summarily sacks Lettice Douffet.
The genius of Peter Shaffer’s royally entertaining script lies in the series of improbable events that follow Lettice Douffet’s firing and the transformation of Lotte Schoen from Miss Douffet’s implacable nemesis to her bosom buddy.
Raised by a flamboyant single mother, who supported herself and her daughter by performing all-female productions of Shakespeare’s plays in rural France, Lettice Douffet comes by her grandiose Drama Queen gestures honestly; and JoAnne Dickinson makes her a real pip. But it is Lynda Clark who steals the show as the straitlaced Lotte Schoen loosens up, and confesses to a misspent youth that matches — and, in some cases, exceeds — the checkered past of Lettice Douffet.
Sandi Sullivan adds a cringing comic cameo as Miss Framer, Miss Schoen’s obsequious secretary who scuttles out of the room at the first sign of trouble; and Kevin Ferguson is a hoot as the bombastic defense attorney Mr. Bardolph, who in ACT III cannot get his client Lettice Douffet to unburden herself about a heinous crime of which she’s been accused and for which, if convicted, she could spend years in prison.
Director John C. McIlwee has whipped up a very tasty comic soufflé indeed on a splendid set by scenic and projection designer David Jensen, who uses projections to decorate the walls as the scene in Lettice and Lovage changes from the Grand Hall of Fustian House in Wiltshire, to Miss Schoen’s office at the Preservation Trust in London, to Miss Douffet’s memento-filled basement apartment across town, in Earls Court. And lighting designer Andrew Korhonen, costume designer Laura Parker, and sound designer Joshua Reaves also deserve kudos for collaborating with director John McIlwee and his crackerjack cast to milk every single laugh from Peter Shaffer’s brimful script. Bravo!
SECOND OPINION: June 6th Durham, NC Independent Weekly review by Byron Woods (who awarded the show 3.5 out of 5 stars): http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/director-john-mcilwee-delivers-laughs-in-lettice-and-lovage/Content?oid=3081190. (Note: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of Triangle Theater Review’s May 30th preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2012/05/joanne-dickinson-and-lynda-clark-will-star-in-peter-shaffers-lettice-and-lovage-at-theatrefest-2012/.)
University Theatre at N.C. State presents LETTICE AND LOVAGE at 7:30 p.m. June 8-10, 13, and 16; and 2 p.m. June 17 in the Kennedy-McIlwee Studio Theatre in Frank Thompson Hall, 2241 E. Dunn Ave., Raleigh North Carolina 27607, on the NCSU campus.
TICKETS: $15 ($5 NCSU students and $13 other students and seniors).
BOX OFFICE: 919-515-1100 or http://purchase.tickets.com/.
The Play (background): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lettice_and_Lovage (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Study Guide: http://ferndale-rep.org/study-guides/Lettice_and_Lovage.pdf (Ferndale Repertory Theatre).
The Playwright: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Shaffer (Wikipedia).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
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To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.