Lettice & Lovage | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Lettice & Lovage 

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Pegasus Players and Buffalo Theatre Ensemble.

More charmingly theatrical than the stiffly mounted touring vehicle that played the Shubert in 1992, Gary Griffin's revival of Peter Shaffer's popular comedy clearly relishes the play's delicious character contrasts and clashes. Wisely, Griffin underplays the cloying cuteness in Lettice and Lotte, vaguely reactionary ladies who denounce all traces of the "mere" world they see in modern buildings and foreigners. (For better or worse, a substantial portion of the second act, in which Lotte describes her failed attempt to blow up an ugly building, has been cut because of the Oklahoma City bombing.)

What endears is the delightful discord between Kelly Nespor's flamboyantly romantic, contagiously free-spirited Lettice and Berkely Rhodes's dourly sensible Lotte, a lady who becomes more colorful as she submits to Lettice's bohemian ways. Lettice--an amalgam of Dolly Levi and Harold's Maude--remains a formidable creation, and Nespor plays this passionate Thatcherite with precise abandon and undiluted joy. Effacing herself before this life force, Rhodes mellows a tad too much in the second act, since in the third she's meant to harden up again. Michael Nowak has a wry turn as a repressed lawyer who also unbends.

The play remains overwritten and underplotted, a character study that breaks its own spell when it overstates a preposterous thesis--that the glory of the universe faded when King Charles I was beheaded and the Puritans spoiled the sport.

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