CALGARY - Rosebud Theatre has opened its 2009 season with Peter Shaffer's wacky farce Lettice and Lovage.
Shaffer, who is best known for such dramatic plays as Equus, Amadeus and The Royal Hunt of the Sun, wrote Lettice and Lovage in 1987 for the irrepressible, indomitable Maggie Smith.
It takes as much courage as talent for a performer to tackle the role of the eccentric Lettice Douffet, who lives her life as if she is perpetually on stage.
Jeany Van Meltebeke is no Dame Maggie, but she is fearless when it comes to slapstick comedy.
In the first act in particular, Meltebeke wallows in outrageous extravagance. Her antics are what give and sustain the momentum of this overly long first half of the evening.
If ever a play needed judicious editing it's Lettice and Lovage because the first 90 minutes simply set the stage for the uproarious second half in which Meltebeke graciously shares the laughs with Marie Russell, who plays Lotte Schoen, the uptight administrator who fires Lettice as a guide at one of England's duller stately homes.
Lotte feels guilty about taking Lettice's livelihood from her so she finds the drama queen another job. It's when Lotte comes to visit Lettice that the women form a most unlikely friendship. Lettice and Lovage is essentially a two-character play. The minor roles are performed by Kendra Hutchinson, Justin Born, Samantha-Dawn Reinhardt and Matthew Schaffer with confidence and flair.
Stephen Waldschmidt's revolving set is as functional as it is impressive and Morris Ertman's direction ensures the undeniable wit and charm of Shaffer's writing shines through.
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