In the English countryside sits a beautiful house where nothing of any interest has ever happened. In order to “enlarge, enliven and enlighten” her guests, tour guide Lettice Douffet tells her own stories about the home — which eventually gets her into trouble with her boss.
This is the thread of the play "Lettice and Lovage," which will be performed by Panglossian Productions this weekend at the Williamsburg Library.
Director Edward Whitacre said a major theme of the play is friendship. Even though Lotte Schoen, an official of the house, has to fire Douffet for lying, the two become friends because Schoen discovers what an interesting person Douffet is.
“I think the idea of two people who share a passion but come at it from very different points of view, and how they get along with that and how to develop a friendship despite disagreements and conflict,” Whitacre said.
“We can be friends with anyone if we get to know them.”
Sharon Hollands, playing Lettice Douffet, said another layer of the women’s friendship is that they’re both middle-aged.
“I think as you get older you think how do I even make friends anymore?” Hollands said.
“Where do you meet people? Not just dating type things, but where do you meet people to hang out with? Mostly we meet them at work, and that’s what happens in (the characters’) case and their friendship really grows.”
“You find (friendships) in the weirdest places,” said Lee Ann Rose, who plays Lotte Schoen.
Rose said another reason she enjoys this play is because it tells the story of older women.
“There are very few vehicles that are for women that are not quite grandmothers but not quite young ingénue,” Rose said. “It’s a really strong female play.”
One thing that bonds the main characters is their love of history. Whitacre said while Douffet may embellish stories, she and Schoen share a deep respect for the facts of history’s important moments.
“Their common passion is not only history, but the destruction of beauty in the 1980s modern era,” Whitacre said. “Peter Shaffer wrote this play as a comment on some of the buildings, the new architecture being brought up in London at the time and how ugly it was, and how there was an almost disdain for the old culture … so Lotte (Schoen) and Lettice (Douffet) comment on that.”
Rose said she’s surprised no one has put this production on in the area before because of the nature of Williamsburg.
“In this town, there are many, many people who are familiar with historical interpretation, reenactments, all that sort of stuff,” said Whitacre. “I think people who appreciate any kind of history all have stories about people who embellish their tales, telling very questionably accurate stories in their interpretations or whatever spiels they have to give.”
“It’s a great fight that’s going on in museums right now, is do you lean toward the drama or do you lean toward the actual historical fact,” Rose said. “What is going to bring people, especially millennials, into your doors. It’s a real fight between these two ladies of the historical truth and the drama of the historical truth, and how you blend those two together.”
Want to go?
7:30 p.m. Aug. 16, 17, 23, 24 and 2 p.m. Aug. 18, 24, Williamsburg Library, 515 Scotland St. Tickets $16 in advance, $18 at the door; purchase at panglossian.org/shows/lettice-and-lovage.
Amelia Heymann, email@example.com, 757-298-5828, @HeymannAmelia.