Lettice & Lovage – Review by Bonnie Goldberg


If you are a docent or a tour guide at an art gallery or castle, you invest hours, if not weeks or months learning facts and accurately digesting details about your trusted speech for visitors. Becoming an expert on a trio of British princesses or Jackson Pollock’s art is a sacred trust and being thorough and focused is a set in stone requirement.

What happens, therefore, when the talk you must present is deadly dull and bores you to tears, not to mention all the tourists who come to be entertained and enlightened? If you are Lettice Douffet, entrusted with the stories of Fustian House and its legends of inhabitants, you might be tempted to embellish the truth, stretch the details and, perhaps, create a full length fabrication of facts. Such is the case in Peter Shaffer’s delightful comedy “Lettice and Lovage” serving tea to its patrons until Saturday, June 17 at Westport Country Playhouse.

Kandis Chappell’s Lettice comes from a theatrical background so it is almost second nature for her to inject color and drama into her tour guide tales. Once she gets started with her “exaggerations,” she is off and running for a glorious finish. The fact that most of her visitors to the hall appreciate her story telling skills does not change the fact that she is spouting lies. When her employer at the Preservation Trust, Miss Lotte Schoen, a perplexed Mia Dillon, learns of her in digressions, Lettice is summoned to the home office and dismissed.

What develops over time is a strange and sweet relationship between these two very different women, one subject to flights of fancy and one wedded to reality. Over multiple cups of an herbal alcoholic toddy called lovage, the pair literally let down their hair and become unlikely friends. An overenthusiastic reenactment of an historic beheading causes Lettice to be on the wrong side of the law and in need of a barrister in the form of that master of English farce, Paxton Whitehead. Sarah Manton serves double duty as Miss Schoen’s secretary and as a tourist enraptured by the spritely spiel Lettice speaks.

John Arnone creates the appropriate background sets for the action and Mark Lamos directs the “delicious” interactions. For tickets ($30 and up), call the Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, off route 1, Westport at 203-227-4177 or 1-888-927-7529 or online at www.westportplayhouse.org. Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

Come be entertained by stories about Queen Elizabeth that you have definitely never heard before and are unlikely to hear ever again. Even the Queen herself will likely be surprised.