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Lettice & Lovage at Scripps Ranch Theatre

Jill Drexler & Dana Hooley
Jill Drexler & Dana Hooley

Lettice and Lovage

According to tour guide Lettice Douffet, Fustian House is inaptly named. “Fustian” means “turgid,” “bombastic,” and “pretentious” speech or writing. Lettice says it’s the blandest, gloomiest, 16th century building in Britain. So she decides to spice up her presentations more and more.

A dreary staircase becomes “the Staircase of Ennoblement,” where Elizabeth I might have tumbled down had not John Fustian lept “the whole height” the steps “in a single bound,” caught the Virgin Queen of England, and carried her nimbly to down to their sumptuous repast of puffins, coneys, and roasted hedgehogs.

Lettice plays so fast and loose with the facts, she’d probably elaborate on important historical events. The guillotine? Not enough. She’d “endore” it with burnished gold.

But she sure can weave a tale.

Jill Drexler & Tom Stephenson

As he does in Equus and Amadeus, Peter Shaffer makes Lettice & Lovage a tug of war between the extraordinary and the mundane. In this case, the enemy is the “mere” – i.e. plain old pimply-faced reality. It just isn’t good enough for Lettice’s airborne imagination. Nor, once she cracks her seemingly impregnable repression, is it for Lotte Schoen.

Lotte works for the Preservation Trust. In effect, she’s Lettice’s boss, who has a slavish obsession with facts. At first they look like each end of a wide spectrum: Lettice, ornate and theatrical; Lotte, spare of speech and granite cold.

Then they have a “quaff” of Lettice’s imitation, 16th century cordial, which is “very enlarging.” Lotte, who goes from polite sipping to impassioned chugging of the magical beverage, opens up, and vwa-lah: they discover acres of common ground.

And resolve never again to do anything “merely.”

In a way, Moonlight Stage Productions’ loss has been San Diego theaters’ gain. Since she’s resigned, Kathy Brombacher has directed staged readings and various productions. Her theatrical savvy’s in evidence throughout.

In a way it’s unfair to anyone else playing the part. I saw Dame Maggie Smith’s Lettice during the New York run (1990, if I remember) and it will forever remain in my Most Treasured Chest of Live Performances (I remember leaving the theater and stone gray Manhattan had an eerie gleam).

For Scripps Ranch, Jill Drexler doesn’t try to emulate Smith. Drexler gives a fine and consistent performance. She could explore Lettice’s eccentricities more, though, even if it means breaking the hallowed rules of Acting 1A.

Lettice is one of theater’s plum female roles. Dana Hooley makes Lotte one as well. She has the sweeping arc, not Lettice: Lotte rises from her self-imposed tomb into flowering eccentricities. Hooley traces every change with invisible, but dead certain craft. Beautifully done.

Like Hooley, no matter how many times Tom Stephenson performs, they don’t seem enough. Here he plays Bardolph, a lawyer dull as Fustian House, and a far cry from the famous drinking buddy of Sir John Falstaff. And gives him vivid life.

Debra Wanger heads the supporting cast and does a funny, turn-off-your-cell phones intro.

N. Dixon Fish’s set(s) reconfigure like a Rubik’s Cube, from the great hall of Fustian House to Lettice’s living room, so packed with antiquities it’s a museum in itself.

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Jill Drexler & Dana Hooley
Jill Drexler & Dana Hooley

Lettice and Lovage

According to tour guide Lettice Douffet, Fustian House is inaptly named. “Fustian” means “turgid,” “bombastic,” and “pretentious” speech or writing. Lettice says it’s the blandest, gloomiest, 16th century building in Britain. So she decides to spice up her presentations more and more.

A dreary staircase becomes “the Staircase of Ennoblement,” where Elizabeth I might have tumbled down had not John Fustian lept “the whole height” the steps “in a single bound,” caught the Virgin Queen of England, and carried her nimbly to down to their sumptuous repast of puffins, coneys, and roasted hedgehogs.

Lettice plays so fast and loose with the facts, she’d probably elaborate on important historical events. The guillotine? Not enough. She’d “endore” it with burnished gold.

But she sure can weave a tale.

Jill Drexler & Tom Stephenson

As he does in Equus and Amadeus, Peter Shaffer makes Lettice & Lovage a tug of war between the extraordinary and the mundane. In this case, the enemy is the “mere” – i.e. plain old pimply-faced reality. It just isn’t good enough for Lettice’s airborne imagination. Nor, once she cracks her seemingly impregnable repression, is it for Lotte Schoen.

Lotte works for the Preservation Trust. In effect, she’s Lettice’s boss, who has a slavish obsession with facts. At first they look like each end of a wide spectrum: Lettice, ornate and theatrical; Lotte, spare of speech and granite cold.

Then they have a “quaff” of Lettice’s imitation, 16th century cordial, which is “very enlarging.” Lotte, who goes from polite sipping to impassioned chugging of the magical beverage, opens up, and vwa-lah: they discover acres of common ground.

And resolve never again to do anything “merely.”

In a way, Moonlight Stage Productions’ loss has been San Diego theaters’ gain. Since she’s resigned, Kathy Brombacher has directed staged readings and various productions. Her theatrical savvy’s in evidence throughout.

In a way it’s unfair to anyone else playing the part. I saw Dame Maggie Smith’s Lettice during the New York run (1990, if I remember) and it will forever remain in my Most Treasured Chest of Live Performances (I remember leaving the theater and stone gray Manhattan had an eerie gleam).

For Scripps Ranch, Jill Drexler doesn’t try to emulate Smith. Drexler gives a fine and consistent performance. She could explore Lettice’s eccentricities more, though, even if it means breaking the hallowed rules of Acting 1A.

Lettice is one of theater’s plum female roles. Dana Hooley makes Lotte one as well. She has the sweeping arc, not Lettice: Lotte rises from her self-imposed tomb into flowering eccentricities. Hooley traces every change with invisible, but dead certain craft. Beautifully done.

Like Hooley, no matter how many times Tom Stephenson performs, they don’t seem enough. Here he plays Bardolph, a lawyer dull as Fustian House, and a far cry from the famous drinking buddy of Sir John Falstaff. And gives him vivid life.

Debra Wanger heads the supporting cast and does a funny, turn-off-your-cell phones intro.

N. Dixon Fish’s set(s) reconfigure like a Rubik’s Cube, from the great hall of Fustian House to Lettice’s living room, so packed with antiquities it’s a museum in itself.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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