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Working as a guide in one of England's stately homes might sound like an exciting job, but Fustian House in Wiltshire is apparently the most boring of these National Trust heritages because nothing ever happened there.
Undaunted, Lettice Douffet solves the problem by making up stories as she takes the mostly gullible tourists around the site. "Enlarge, enliven and enlighten," is her mantra as she shuns the 'mere.' With oohs and aahs, the tourists soaked up her dramatic tales until, one day, Charlotte (Lotte) Schoen, an inspector from the National Trust paid a surprise visit.
Written by Peter Shaffer of Amadeus and Equusfame, this play was created for the great British actress Maggie Smith. In the stage production, which ran for many years in the West End and on Broadway, her nemesis-turned-friend is perfectly interpreted by Margaret Tyzack. Lotte is a formidable devotee of the unvarnished fact, and upon discovering the guide's outrageous embellishments of the historical truth, fires her.
There is pathos as well as comedy in this play, and a lonely unemployed Lettice is later befriended by Lotte as they share enthusiasm for the "non-mere" days gone by, as well as a passionate loathing for modern British architecture.
In the Haifa English Theatre production, which opens in January, Lettice and Lotte are played by two veteran actresses, Bertha Cafrey and Valerie Herbert, who give a professional and entertaining interpretation of these two challenging characters.
Directed by Ruth Willner, the strong cast of na ve and less-believing visitors to Fustian House and other characters include John Dicks, Melody Fanaiyan, David Friedlander, Celia Kelman, Tatiana Leibowitz, Sylvia and Yossi Lippa, Hazel Packer, Murray Rosovsky, Xandrine Schwartz, Hallit Sorek, Cora Tresman and Dana Lynne Weill.
The Haifa English Theatre is a co-operative, and when out of the limelight the actors are just as busy off-stage. Dicks has directed many plays for the company, Kelman has for many years been the costume director and Yossi Lippa is always relied upon to produce realistic and attractive stage sets.
Instead of the usual "break a leg," H.E.T. has received a personal message from Dame Maggie Smith wishing them success.
Lettice and Lovage opens on Thursday evening, January 11th at the spacious auditorium at Beth Hagefen at 33 Zionism Avenue, and runs for five performances - Saturday the 13 th at 8:30 p.m., a matinee on Tuesday the 16th at 5:30 p.m., and two more evening shows on Thursday the 18th and Saturday the 20th.
Tickets are available at the door or by mail order: POB 160, Kiryat Bialik 27000