The romantic comedy based on the novel, “Enchanted April” by Elizabeth Von Arnim, is a tale of love and renewal in the enchanted month of April.
Set in 1920s London, the whimsical and imaginative Lotty Wilton (played by Alicia Roper) and the reserved Rose Arnott (Maureen Garrett) discover an opportunity to escape the relentless rain, their decaying marriages and post-World War I realities. The two reply to an advertisement, searching for those with a love for “wisteria and sunshine” promised at a small castle in Mezzago, Italy.
They go about planning their escape, purposely excluding their husbands but with the additions of Mrs. Graves (Wendy Scharfman), a proper old English woman and Lady Caroline Bramble (Meghan Heimbecker), a sexy socialite.
The slow-paced first act may have some insistently waiting for the excitement to begin, promoting a bleak atmosphere with dark lighting and predominantly dull colors. Two husbands are left disgruntled and disapproving as the four dissimilar women get away to the sun-drenched, blossoming villa. The set is mesmerizing and filled with countless live plants, exotic flowers and exquisite lighting. It truly felt like the sun was shining in an otherwise dark theater.
Director Malcolm Black achieves a balance between the two acts with help from designers and Temple alumni Paul Wonsek on set and Jerold R. Forsyth on lights. With almost equal stage time, London (Act 1) and Italy (Act 2) contrast greatly, illuminating the transformation that takes place in the pastel-colored, vividly-lit second act.
Upon their arrival to the castle, which seems to be an entity within itself, the play finally takes off and becomes the magical experience that is suggested in the first act. The ladies are hosted by the castle’s hilarious maid, Costanza (Caroline Rossi). While most of her lines are delivered in Italian, the language barrier doesn’t matter as her character does an excellent job of adding comedy to the play.
The castle begins to cast its spell immediately, affecting each of the women at different rates. Lotty is the first to be overwhelmed by its effects, with a joy and optimism that resonates throughout the play. Her performance is the strongest of the four leading ladies, as she has the best grip on the euphemistic language. The other women’s performances were exceptional as well. The ladies salvaged aspects of their lives through self-exploration and sisterhood bonding.
Unexpected arrivals made enchantment possible for more than just the play’s four leading ladies. The castle’s owner, Antony Wilding (Ian Merrill Peakes), is the first male to interrupt the feminine ambiance at the castle. He arrives to add charm and a bit of romance to the scene with a brilliant performance. Mid-transformation, Lotty and Rose begin to regret leaving their counterparts behind and somehow, as if teleported, the two husbands arrive to enjoy the fun.
The jazz-loving writer, Frederick Arnott (Ian D. Clark), is forced to choose between either embracing or continuing to ignore his neglected wife. Mellersh Wilton (Dan Olmstead) gives the best performance of the males. The character’s transformation from uptight and prim to a more open-minded soul is enjoyable to watch.
Each character blossoms over the course of this enchanted April. The light-hearted comedy is a truly theatrical enchantment. Capture the magic-you won’t regret it.
Brittney Green can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.