Matthew Barber’s Enchanted April at Theatre in the Round, based on the novel by Elizabeth von Arnim, is slight but, indeed, enchanting.
The premise here is that a pair of English housewives, Lotty and Rose, both have husbands who see them more as marital fixtures than they do as living, breathing human beings. Bored out of their brains from social protocol on Lotty’s part and chronic neglect on Rose’s, they opt for a new—if temporary—lease on life. The irrepressible Lotty convinces her terminally sensible friend they ought to treat themselves to a month on their own: just the girls, idling in sunshine by the sea at an Italian castle. To help pay the freight they enlist a stuffy old hatchet-face, Mrs. Graves, and a fiesty young lady, Caroline, to join them on the adventure. With sparkling dialogue and pinpoint characterizations, Barber brings his foursome to vibrant life and, by the close of the first act, has you wondering what in the world will happen when they’re all thrown together in one place. It also has you rooting for each and every one of them—even stick-in-the-mud Mrs. Graves—to have the time of their lives.
|enchanted april, playing through april 11 at theatre in the round. for tickets ($20) and information, see theatreintheround.org|
The second-act curtain rises and you’re right there, pleasantly waiting for whatever is going to happen to change these women’s lives. And waiting. And waiting. By the time you realize nothing’s going to happen and their reward will come virtually by osmosis, it’s too late to very much resent the fact that you’ve been had. Mainly because it’s been a great deal of fun visiting with the gals and, fact is, the world doesn’t come to an end simply because a play is not terribly profound—or, in this case, fails to reach a conclusion worthy of the built-up beginning. The husbands expediently realize the error of their ways and conveniently reverse themselves, suddenly appreciative, attentive, and so on and so forth. Caroline gets the wind cruelly taken out of her sails, then in virtually the next breath, Bob’s-your-uncle: she’s back to her spirited self, enjoying a bright change of fortune.
ABC-TV, back in the 1960s, had a hugely successful comedy, The Love Boat, that was much like Barber’s script. Every week, a handful or so of likeable, romantically challenged folk would take off on a cruise, face one obstacle or another and then, at the last minute, everybody’s problems would get wrapped up in a bundle and succintly solved, and everlasting love would be achieved. Ta da! That’s exactly what we have in Enchanted April with the improvement that it’s live theater at a first-rate venue. In the cast are standouts Colleen Barrett (Lotty), Thom Pinault (her husband), Candace Barrett (Mrs. Graves), the charmingly deft Candy Simmons (Caroline), and serviceable performers Muriel J. Bonertz (Rose) and Joel Raney (her husband) along with Steve Schmaltz, rather stiff and gesture-prone as the castle owner and Donna Profiri, completely unconvincing as the housekeeper. David Coral directs, pacing the piece well.