KPBS AIRDATE: JUNE 18, 1998
It’s a great time in the theater for women who get what they want. To last week’s discussion of the indomitable Auntie Mame, I’d like to add an unlikely duo: Lettice Duffet and Cinderella.
Lettice isn’t particularly green, and she certainly doesn’t wilt easily. She’s a hilariously dramatic, tough-as-nails tour guide with delicate sensibilities — and a wee penchant for the extravagant and the macabre. Unfortunately, she happens to work at Fustian House, a numbingly boring historic English domicile where “nothing happened for 400 years.” So, to keep herself and her charges from falling into a stupor, she invokes “The three Es: Enlarge, Enlighten, Enliven.” Her tours begin to slide, as she puts it, “from the shore of fact down the slipstream of fiction” — until she is discovered by Lotte Schoen, a strait-laced, rule-abiding, history-adoring administrative type from the British Heritage, who promptly fires Lettice. Gradually, an unexpected friendship develops between these two word-loving eccentrics.
There is more than a slight intimation of more than a friendship, especially as the piece is cast and staged by Kerry Meads at Lamb’s Players Theatre. This is a classic femme/butch couple, in looks, personality and linguistic style.
Lettice is a fabulous character: expansive, exciting, emotional; in short, a mouth-watering role for any actress. Rosina Reynolds fills her shoes and wears her outrageous costumes exceptionally well. She’s obviously loving every minute of this wordly-wise woman. And she plays perfectly off Priscilla Allen, ideal as the hidebound and fact-bound Lotte. This dyad reveres history as much as language, and ultimately, they unite for the Good Fight, crusading against all that is “mere,” ugly, small-minded and second-rate in society.
Like Peter Shaffer’s better and better-known plays, “Equus” and “Amadeus,” this one pits gray rationality against inspired creativity, with the scales always tipped toward the artist. “Lettice and Lovage” isn’t a totally satisfying piece of theater, but it’s an entertaining pas de deux, and Meads and company keep the production on its toes. From Mike Buckley’s movable set, to the humorous way it’s moved, from Tom Stephenson’s stuffy English lawyer to Veronica Murphy’s whimsical costumes, this is one precise and fast-paced evening of theater.
The same cannot be said of poor Cinderella. Her gown is gorgeous, and so are her voice and her surroundings — high atop Mount Helix, under the moon and stars — but this is no fairy tale production for Christian Community Theatre. The night I was there, one week into the run, props were dropped, dancers fell, the directing and choreography were uninspired and the pace was soporifically slow. Well, I guess it’s fair to say this wasn’t Rodgers and Hammerstein’s best effort, and it isn’t CCT’s, either.
They don’t seem to have the acting and dancing talent they’ve had in the past. But Errolyn Yavorsky does make a lovely Girl of the Cinders, even if she only gets the prince because she’s pretty. His Royal Highness, Cris O’Bryon, has a regal presence and a pleasant voice. Other than that, all that can be said is that the costumes, borrowed from Kansas City, are eye-popping, as are Travis Russell’s fanciful set and magical transformations.
A little further south, in San Ysidro, the dreams of another adolescent girl take human shape. This is a community-based re mounting of a winning play from the statewide Young Playwrights competition. “Dreaming Pancho Villa,” by 18 year-old Mabelle Reynoso, shows us a border identity crisis and a burgeoning new writer.
I’m Pat Launer, KPBS radio.
©1998 Patté Productions Inc.