I am so in love with the opening section of this play that I will take and have taken friends just so that they can imagine how creative it is to expand on the actual history of Fustian House, where Lettice Douffet (Patricia Conolly) serves as docent. It is, she says, the dullest house on the circuit of stately homes. By the time she has tweaked the story of how its owner saved the queen herself from tumbling down the stairs on a royal visit, gaining for himself an immediate knighthood, everyone is in awe with appreciation.
Well, not quite everyone. Charlotte Schoen (Mia Dillon), Lettice’ supervisor in the Preservation Trust, finds it not amusing and disgraceful. But when she comes for a visit to the basement studio in Earl’s Court where Ms. Douffet lives, the addition of a potent herb to her tea helps her to relax enough that the two women begin to become friends, after the cat has been locked away. Charlotte is violently allergic to cats.
During the course of their friendship they grow fond of dissecting and in fact reenacting the several known stories of execution in British History. During one of these, Charlotte is on her knees with her head on a block, when, unfortunately, the cat gets out of its secured area and jumps on her. Big scream. Police interfere. Was the tenant in this flat about to kill her guest for tea? You won’t get the full answer to this question but you will enjoy the attorney, Mr. Bardolph (Paxton Whitehead), as he tries to get to the bottom of what happened.
“Lettice and Lovage” was created for Maggie Smith, who played Douffet in productions in London and New York. Mark Lamos directs this production, which gets a little tired mid-way. The set is outrageous and might be more than is necessary, but it is well stocked with craziness and cubbyholes. Costumes are terrific. The experience is fun, and I urge you to see it. It runs through June 17.
Tickets and information at www.westportplayhouse.org or 203-227-4177
Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports on Theatre