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JOAN PLOWRIGHT

On the theory that there’s no such thing as too much of Joan Plowright, we watched “Daphne Laureola,” a 1978 British television production of a 1949 play by James Bridie, actually a Scottish physician born Osborne Henry Mavor. Sir Laurence Olivier, who rated this play as one of the six best in the 20th century, appears in this adaptation along with Plowright, who was his third wife.

In this romantic comedy, Olivier plays the elderly Sir Joseph Pitts and Plowright plays his 50-year-old wife whose first name — perhaps deliberately — is never given. When Lady Pitts dines alone at a restaurant in London’s Soho district, her overindulgence in alcohol launches her into a uncontrolled monologue that alternately amuses and horrifies the other patrons. The one exception is Ernst, a young Polish student who becomes infatuated with her — comparing her place in his life to that of the nymph Daphne in the life of the Greek god Apollo.

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LAURENCE OLIVIER and JOAN PLOWRIGHT in "Daphne Laureola"

Lady Pitts collects the names and addresses of seven of the customers — including Ernst — and promises to invite them to tea. She does, but by the time the appointed hour arrives, she has forgotten not only the invitations but the guests and the circumstances under which she met them.

Ernst has not forgotten, though, and his pursuit of an ill-defined relationship with Lady Pitts — and the manner in which Sir John and his lady deal with Ernst — provides the substance of the play.

The cast, which I believe was chosen by Olivier, is outstanding. Clive Arrindell as the deadly earnest young man who is blind to the absurdity of his situation gives a bravura performance. Bryan Marshall has a strong turn as Vincent, the Pitts’ despicable house servant and driver who doesn’t approve of Ernst nor, it seems, of Sir John, Lady Pitts, or their marriage. Olivier is moving as the baronet who knows his life is nearing its conclusion, and Plowright, of course, is Plowright. Lady Pitts is designed to befuddle the other characters and the audience, and Plowright is the woman to make her ladyship do it.

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DAPHNE LAUREOLA

In the course of the play, Lady Pitts instructs Vincent to have a daphne laureola plant installed in the garden at her home, a plant Sir John insists will die because it has been planted in the fall. Lady Pitts refers to the plant as a laurel, but the daphne laureola is not a laurel — in fact, it’s a noxious weed, which was perhaps an obscure insinuation by the playwright.

The clash in this play between the nearly insane romantic obsession of the young student and the decidedly non-poetic disposition of the people around him provides the fun, the drama, and the heartbreak of this work.

We stumbled on this in the kind of accident that often occurs on a site like Netflix, and we’re glad we did.

JOAN PLOWRIGHT

JOAN PLOWRIGHT

We watched the 2005 film “Mrs. Palfrey at The Claremont,” which director Dan Ireland and screenwriter Ruth Sacks adapted from a novel by the late British writer, Elizabeth Coles Taylor. We are in our Joan Plowright period, and that wonderful actress plays the title role in this film — Mrs. Palfrey, that is, not The Claremont.

The Claremont is a past-its-prime London hotel where the aged, refined widow, Mrs. Palfrey, takes up temporary residence in the hope of establishing a relationship with her only grandson, Desmond. The grandson, who labors in the archives of the British Museum — one can only imagine — does not return her telephone calls, leaving Mrs. Palfrey to fill her days reading Wordsworth and cautiously interacting with the odd collection of residents at the hotel, who gradually begin to suspect that Desmond doesn’t exist.

RUPERT FRIEND

RUPERT FRIEND

Mrs. Palfrey’s life takes an unexpected turn when she stumbles, literally, into the acquaintance of a nearly destitute writer Ludovic Meyer, played by Rupert Friend. The story of their relationship explores the question of what actually constitutes family.

This is a deceptively intense film that pokes at some potentially painful issues that many of us will confront in reality sooner or later — issues of loneliness, vulnerability, and fulfillment.

Joan Plowright is magnetic and moving as always, and she is supported by several skilled performers, including those who play the quirky guests and staff at The Claremont, and the stunning Zoe Tapper, who appears as the lover Meyer finds only because his path first crossed that of Mrs. Palfrey.

Don’t pass this one up.

RUPERT FRIEND and JOAN PLOWRIGHT

RUPERT FRIEND and JOAN PLOWRIGHT

JOAN PLOWRIGHT

JOAN PLOWRIGHT

We watched “Enchanted April,” a production that was made for British television in 1991 and was released to American theaters the following year. It was nominated for three Oscars and won two Golden Globe awards.

This is sort of a fantasy about four British women – previously strangers to each other – who rent a castle on the coast of northern Italy for a month-long vacation from lives that have become stifiling — in a different way for each of them. Lottie Wilkins (Josie Lawrence) who instigates the sojourn, is suffocating in her relationship with a husband who appreciates her cooking but shows her no affection and makes her account, in writing, for every penny she spends.

JOSIE LAWRENCE

JOSIE LAWRENCE

Rose Arbuthnot (Miranda Richardson) is a devout woman married to a tipsy writer whose books focus on the lives of scandalous women in history and who describes his wife as “a disappointed madonna.”

Mrs. Fisher (Joan Plowright) is an aged socialite who is preoccupied with her circle of notable literary friends, all of whom have been dead for many years.

Caroline Dester (Polly Walker) is a stunning member of the titled elite who is constantly the center of attention, but not the sort of attention that contributes  to her emotional wellbeing.

POLLY WALKER

POLLY WALKER

This movie, much of it filmed at the villa that inspired the 1920 novel on which it is based, is visually enchanting. That turns out to be an appropriate quality, because the story — both dramatic and humorous in its way — depends on faith in enchantment. No matter what the four women, and their unexpected guests, may have intended when they traveled to Italy, the results of their month among the lush green hills overlooking the sea transform all of them for good.

The casting is flawless and the performances are engrossing. This film has received a lot of compliments, and they all are richly deserved. I’m not sure a person can watch it once and be satisfied.