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A CurtainUp Review
Enchanted April

No man wants a woman who thinks.— Mrs. Graves
The Walnut Street Theatre was absolutely brimming with women of a certain age, as one might expect for a production of the sentimental and nostalgic Enchanted April. Surprising, though, was the large number of older men in tow. The good-time, candy-wrapper crackling crowd, relaxed as if in their own living rooms, applauded each time a scene changed and sometimes for gags and upshots within scenes.

Elizabeth Von Armin's escapist novel of a four-woman getaway trip is set in (then contemporary) post WWI London and at a rural location in Italy. Matthew Barber's adaptation, that did fairly well on Broadway in 2003 and last summer in the Berkshires when it featured some of Shakespeare & Company's leading ladies (see links below). At the Walnut Street Theatre the first act is played shallow, downstage before a clever huge backdrop of a London Times page advertising the rental of a small castle in Italy. Subtle lighting effects suggest dreary, rainy London weather. Actors are appropriately, up-tightly costumed.

Audience expectations grow concerning the next set, tantalizingly hidden behind the scrim. The unveiling of the second act at the Italian villa, however, doesn't draw the large, appreciative gasp that might have been expected. Surely everyone loves light and color, but while the advertised Italian "small castle" itself is picturesque --complete with tile roof-- the scene is strictly paradiso by way of Big K Mart. Overly bright light exposes clumps of frankly fake wisteria and hanging baskets of gaudy artificial flowers. A bit less literalness and more illusion would have served the scene well. This second act of the old fashioned drawing room comedy introduces drop-trou humor and farcical comings and goings. Music is employed sparingly and more would be welcome.

The actors appear to enjoy playing their exaggerated roles, and the audience appreciates it. Bright, formulaic acting suits the format and its funny, time-worn sentiments. Alicia Roper is energetic as Lotty Wilton, the lead and impetus of the story. Playing Rose Arnott, a complete stranger and Lotty's new best friend, is Maureen Garrett of Guiding Light fame. She embues the part with considerable sensitivity considering the material she is given to work with. Wendy Scharfman as the elderly Mrs. Graves does a good job with her juicy supporting role. Meghan Heimbecker is a subdued Lady Caroline Bramble, the outrageous and beautiful yet secretly sad socialite. The audience loves Costanza, the Italian maid played with subversive gusto by Caroline Rossi. Ian Merrill Peakes is a charmer as landlord Antony Wilding, and Dan Olmstead handles the role of Mellersh Wilton, which Alfred Molina captured so well in the 1991 film version. Sometimes difficult to understand, Ian D. Clark is the good, if sketchily written comic character, Frederick.

While the story is unsophisticated and fun with a small, healthy, warm message, there are several troubling little gaps. A few of them: Mellersh goes through changes that occur for no apparent reason. We see the before and after, but no real inciting, transition-inducing event. Then there's a big set up for Frederick, the roving eyed husband, and we wait for the obligatory confrontation or big laugh or something, anything, that never comes. And an 11th hour love interest between two characters who have barely noticed each other is manufactured to effect a tidy, happy ending. Despite all these niggling issues, some of which were heard being tossed about during the egress, the audience clearly enjoyed the show.

Enchanted April-Berkshires
Enchanted April-Broadway /

Enchanted April
Novel by Elizabeth Von Armin
Adaptation by Matthew Barber
Directed by Malcolm Black

Cast: Ian D. Clark, Maureen Garrett, Meghan Heimbecker, Dan Olmstead, Ian Merrill Peakes, Alicia Roper, Caroline Rossi, Wendy Scharfman
Scenic Design: Paul Wonsek
Lighting Design: Jerold Forsyth
Costume Design: Ellis Tillman Running time: 2 hours and 20 minutes with one 15 min intermission 03/13/07- 04/29/07
Reviewed by Kathryn Osenlund based on 03/22 performance.
Walnut Street Theatre
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