Butterfield 8's current production of "Lettice and Lovage" lives large in Downtown Concord, in Cue's delightful and inexpensive cabaret theater space!

Once again the Butterfield 8 Theater Company located in Concord has hit a home run with their delightfully funny and thought provoking production of Peter Shaffer’s “Lettice and Lovage”. Director Alan Cameron has elevated a cleverly written story about two women with absolutely different personalities, who begin their relationship on the surly seas of acrimony after becoming engaged in a divisive employer/employee relationship. Time passes as do their paths and an unexpected act of kindness curiously allows them to find common ground.

Lettice Douffet (Deborah Doyle) is a theatrical brat whose mother (a rather mediocre actress) had a checkered career as an actress, director, traveling theatre manager and owner. Lettice grew up as her mother’s assistant, managing props, wardrobe and all levels of theatrical management minutia. Miss Lettice Douffet has recently been employed by the United Kingdon’s National Trust to guide tourists through the 16th century Faustian House estate manor. Miss Douffet is first encountered by the audience reciting a dull and unimaginative narrative of the less than interesting history of this manor, in a monologue prescribed by the equally unimaginative script writers who prepare the docents’ material. As the tourists leave the premise in a rather somnambulistic stupor, our dear Lettice finds herself demoralized and dejected as her audience quickly vacate the most bland of all bland estates. The scene changes slightly a few days later as Miss Lettice interjects some inspired embellishments in the prepared speech, improvising and adding color to the sober events that actually took place in the mansion. As the days pass, the once dull history of Faustian House becomes much more entertaining with each and every telling. Her fractured fiction even sports an inspired retelling of events surrounding Queen Elizabeth’s one and only visitation to the home, adding an amazingly, mysteriously undocumented near tragic “trip” by the Queen on the grand staircase as she made her grand entrance! With Miss Lettice’s theatrical training and grand embellishment, the tourists actually begin flocking to the Faustian House.

As such daring improvisation often does, it ferrets out critics who arise in the throngs of tourists who actually are students of history, and who, out of respect for everything “grey” in the true fabric of Elizabethan history, must always demand authentication for these upgraded historical events at places such as Faustian House. These questioners’ doubt raises a fuss, and before long an irreverent word gets back to the National Trust’s management staff.

The next scene opens in similar fashion, but standing near the back of the tourist group accompanying Miss Douffet through the premises is a very quiet female figure whose disdain for the message being orchestrated by the tour guide is obvious. Suddenly, as if this figure can stand no more of this flawed message, she interrupts and erupts, demanding that the tour be terminated and that the tour guide end the tour and immediately join her in a private discussion. Miss Douffet naturally resists the interruption, but when it is disclosed that she has been interrupted by a member of the Trust’s Preservation Board, in fact her employer, a Miss Lotte Schoen (pronounced “Shane” played by Maureen-Theresa Williams) reprimands Miss Douffet and demands that she come to the Trust’s headquarters in short order for a “discussion”.

In a delightful scene where the two very strong willed ladies verbally parry and thrust in their attempts to justify their purpose in their positions and the relevancies to the issues at hand, Miss Douffet ultimately loses the argument and is discharged from her job.

In the next scene, a few months later, the still unemployed Miss Douffet is enjoying the company of her cat in her apartment when Miss Schoen unexpectedly shows up at the apartment’s front door, seeking to speak with Miss Douffet again. There is a brief acrimonious exchange of un-pleasantries, but in short order the former employer is invited in, wherein she admits feeling somewhat guilty for discharging a well-intentioned and “inventive” docent. Miss Schoen has discovered an opportunity for employment that might fit the personality of Miss Douffet, as a guide on a Thames tour boat company. Gracious in her acceptance in her former employer’s offer of an olive branch, Miss Douffet reciprocates with an offer of a Meade based drink to celebrate the occasion. After several hours of celebrating and inebriating and getting to know each other, they reveal some very interesting facets in their own lives and in their absolute contempt for the “mere” of modern English architecture, a mindset discovery that eventually turns the animosity around to an adventuresome, albeit rocky friendship.

The final act and the final touch in this brilliantly clever play about opposites who attract and interact involves a police action arising from an act of aggression that could have had disastrous consequences. The ladies now explore another side of their unique personalities that leads them down another adventurous path and another opportunity for loads of laughs. This final act incorporates the wonderful talents of Gary Mutz who plays Miss Douffet’s defense solicitor “Mr. Bardolph”, who also gets caught up in the anxiety and madness.

The original 1987 production was produced in London with Dame Maggie Smith in the role of Lettice Douffet and its two year run of 768 performances set a record as one of the longer runs in the London Theatrical scene. The acting by the three principal actors in this show is most enjoyable, with supporting “tourist” roles played quite adequately.

While this little theater space is rather rudimentary and more of a cabaret style theater facility, I have discovered this to be a unique space for some very entertaining theater being offered at very reasonable prices without our Rossmoor Residents having to drive a great distance and disembark their vehicles in unsafe or unfamiliar places. This theatre is right in the middle of downtown “Old” Concord, just one block from the very familiar Todos Santos Park where the city of Concord holds so many local entertainment opportunities. Ticket prices are very reasonable at $18 for general admission, $12 for seniors and students. Tickets may be purchased at the door or by telephone by calling 1(800) 838-3006 or online (internet) at www.b8company.com . The theater is located at 1835 Colfax Street near Willow Pass Road in the Cue Productions Live facility next door to a music store. Thursday through Saturday evening performances are at 8 p.m., with Sunday performances at 3 p.m. and run now through May 26th. The seating can be a bit trying as it is folding chair type with little pillows provided for most, but you might want to bring your own tush cushion.