When given a job that requires adhering to the same thing over and over again, people begin to feel robotic. Lettice is a tour guide in Peter Shaffer’s play “Lettice and Lovage.” She sees that after repeating the same information regarding the rather dull historic house she talks about, that visitors quickly become bored. In order to remedy that, she begins to enhance authentic information with her own brand of creativity. Visitors are suddenly thoroughly entertained, but does Lettice go too far?

Charlotte (Lotte) Schoen, Lettice’s superior attends a session and is stunned by the elaborately dramatic rendering provided by the inventive tour guide. She fires Lettice, but soon feels sorry for the guide knowing she is not likely to find a job elsewhere. Shoen steps in to help and the two women, quite opposite in just about every sense, become involved in a most unusual relationship.

This is an absolutely charming play where romanticism and realism clash. It is a piece that shows how opposites attract. Most importantly it draws the line between fact and fiction in the most amusing way.

Mia Dillon, left, and Kandis Chappell in Peter Shaffer’s ‘Lettice and Lovage’ at the Westport Country Playhouse. — Carol Rosegg photo

Kudos to Kandis Chappell who stepped in the last minute to replace the actress originally cast to play Lettice. She stepped in during final rehearsals, but she has had some experience with the role. The audience fully embraced her inspired performance. Mia Dillon as Lotte also delivers an impressive performance. Playing a thoroughly straight laced character, Dillon makes Lotte seem lonely enough to go along with Lettice’s wacky ideas.

In spite of the solid performances, Act I does get long in the tooth. Thank goodness for Paxton Whitehead who is so wonderful that he only needs to step on stage as he does in Act 2 to win the audience over with his confident air. His  humor turns the play into a delightful farce, especially when he begins to play his imaginary drum. He’s simply terrific.

Also, in the cast is Equity member Sarah Manton, who plays several roles, and a few non-Equity area actors, including Richard Mancini of Stratford, Travis James of Weston, Michele S. Mueller of Rocky Hill, Darien resident Robert Peterpaul, Herman Telvan of Wilton and Danielle Anna White of Ridgefield.

Directed by Mark Lamos, the artistic director of the theater, everything about the show is first rate. John Amone’s scenic design is splendid, both in the historic house with artwork hanging as carefully as  if in a prominent museum and in Lettice’s basement apartment. Jane Greenwood’s costumes are splendid and Philip Rosenberg’s lighting and John Gromada’s sound design accentuate the action perfectly. Karen White has \brought together just the right props for the set.

Overall, this is a fine start to a yet another season at the Westport Country Playhouse.  For tickets, contact the box office at 203-227-4177 or visit westportplayhouse.org.

Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: jgrochman@gmail.com