In this outstanding comedy, written by Sir Peter Schaffer (Equus and Amadeus), under Renée Mandel-Sher’s flowing direction, Sandi Rubay is wonderful as the wacky former Thespian, Lettice Duffet turned tour guide, and Marsha van Broek is a hoot as the straight-laced as Lotte Shoen, Board Administrator of the Preservation Trust.
Sir Peter Shaffer’s 1987 Tony Award-Winning comedy Lettice and Lovage was written for Maggie Smith. Novato Theater Company’s Lettice and Lovage is a star vehicle for the actress brave enough to tackle the crazy Lettice character. Sandi Rubay is fabulous in that role. Following Shaffer’s dominant scene, the visionary versus the mediocre, he introduces us to the flamboyant Lettice Duffet, a most- memorable character, indeed. Essentially, Lettice and Lovage is a funny look at coming to terms with the modern world by two kindred spirits. They form a special friendship that allows them to cope with their dreary lives after initially being quite hostile toward one another.
We meet Lettice as she embellishes her role as tour-guide because Fustian House in Wiltshire, England, was so bland her tourists were bored. So she invented unique stories to spice up her tours. These scenes set the comic tone and give us a clue into Lettice vivid imagination. When Lotte Shoen, sent by the Preservation Trust to investigate Lettice’s fictional transgressions, she is not amused and promptly fires Lettice. But Lotte’s quiet passion for history (and her deep-seated need for passion) draws her to the eccentric showy former Shakespearian actress. Lotte is enticed by the romantic world-view behind Lettice’s projects, and an unlikely friendship emerges as the two discover they have a common view of the gray dreary modern world that neither cherishes. Both realize, especially through the influence of Lettice’s herbal brew “Lovage,” their combined-imagination through theatrical re-enactments of history may be the best buffer against their reality!
This smart comedy is a taxing role for both leading characters. It is Sandi Rubay’s over-the-top manic exuberance and splashy speech patterns (in fine British accent) that emotionally present the zany, yet loveable, Lettice. Rubay is hilarious as a Bohemian artsy-traditionalist. She throws herself with ravish into each scene. She mesmerizes us with her deeply vulnerable performance. With loads of heart, Rubay’s Lettice makes a most-dazzling character. We cheer for her!
Marsha van Broek is superb as the stiff emotionally-suppressed bureaucrat, Lotte Schoen, who early-on into this complex character exhibits yearning for excitement and adventure in her life. She truthfully peels-away Lotte’s seemingly insipid personality to reveal a soul ready for excitement. Marsha van Broek’s comedic style both plays-off and sets-up Sandi Rubay, and has funny double-takes, thus adding even more humor.
Marilyn Hughes, as Lotte’s secretary, Mark Clark as Bardolf, and John Griffin as Surley Man, each add a lot of humor in support.
Each of the three Acts has wacky plot twists, as we see a unique middle-aged buddy-satire played out as an intelligent comedy of manners filled with perceptive ideas and social commentary. You’ll love Sandi Rubay and Marsha van Broek as two very-British women seeking some fun in life.
When we enter the theater we are first in Fustian House followed by the office of the Preservation Trust through the remarkable Set Design by Mark Clark, along with the excellent Lighting Design by Frank Sarubbi, perfect Sound Design by Simon Eves, and Amanda Cairo designed the beautiful costumes. Mark Clark wears several hats: as the Producer, Set Designer, and the Bardolf character, as well as being the Publicity Photographer. Gary Carr is responsible for the great publicity.
Don’t miss Lettice and Lovage for a delightful performance. Good writing and direction with passionate characters living out their imagination equals terrific theatre. It is clever and hilarious! Lettice and Lovage is a hit!
FLORA LYNN ISAACSON
See Lettice and Lovage February 3 through 19, 2017, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Order tickets online up to two hours before performance times at www.NovatoTheaterCompany.org (print out your ticket from the confirmation email). If you are unable to print out your ticket, your name will be on a list at the Box Office at your scheduled time. The Box Office opens at 7:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; and at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday.
Coming up next at NTC from March 24 to April 16 is the musical COMPANY, story by George Furth, Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and Directed by Pat Nims.