by Terrance Mc Arthur
Suppose you were an Englishwoman in 1922, vaguely unsatisfied with your marriage, and you saw an ad for an Italian castle for rent for the month of April? Wouldn’t that intrigue you?
That’s the basis of The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim, which became Enchanted April; movie versions in 1935 and 1991, and a Broadway play in 2003. The play is now at the Good Company Players’ 2nd Space Theatre through April 19. It will enchant you, no matter what month you go to see it.
Slightly-flighty Lotty Wilton (Kristin Lyn Crase) and very-pious Rose Arnott (Karen Hansen-Smith) see the ad, and want to rent, but they need more money to swing the deal, so they advertise and get two more roommates: the dowager Mrs. Graves (Elizabeth Fiester [first four weeks]/Amelia Ryan [final four]) and jaded socialite Lady Caroline (Savanna Clevenger). They travel from rainy England to sunny Italy and the castle of Antony Wilding (Joseph Ham), where they meet the Italian-speaking housekeeper Costanza (Jessica Reedy). Lotty’s husband, Mellersh (Benjamin Geddert) is a stuffy solicitor, and Rose’s husband Frederick (Chase Stubblefield) is a popular writer of scandalous novels about royal mistresses. When they show up at the castle, the balance of female friendships that has grown becomes seriously threatened.
Crase is bubbly, a Pollyanna who sees the bright side of every disaster. The narrator of the bookend pieces, she revels in her new environment as she tosses off the restrictions of post-war society.
Hansen-Smith starts out reserved and repressed, but she blossoms in the sun of the Italian coast. At first—looking down, she starts to smile, becomes more expansive, eagerly embracing experiences, attaining sisterhood.
Fiester creates a battleship of a character, set in her ways, wanting the new environment to be more like the drab world she knew—a wonderful portrait. (Ryan is also a fine actress; whichever performer you see, it will be a treat)..
Clevenger makes her GCP debut with a study in world-weariness, a striking New Woman of the Roaring 20s. She is slender, languorous, wry, and dousing her sorrows in gin. The layers of the character surprise, shock, and delight as they are revealed.
Reedy is delightful as a feisty servant, fleet of foot and tongue, sort of an alert version of Estelle Getty in The Golden Girls. She sees through the facades of the English, and BOY, can she spout a stream of Italian!
Geddert is pompous and tight until his pretensions (and other things) are stripped away. Ham is bright and gentle as the landlord dealing with the vacationers and his staff. That bemused look of his gets a healthy workout.
Stubblefield has become an expert at playing self-centered cads, but this one has more depth for him to explore. He is confident, then shocked, and finally human.
Denise Graziani’s direction is smooth and fluid. The English scenes are drab, played against black curtains and projected rain, but the move to Italy reveals the glorious, sun-soaked, wisteria-bedecked villa designed by David Pierce. The costumes Ginger Kay Lewis-Reed drapes onto the actors are period-centered and character-based; what an achievement!
There is laughter and strength, sadness and deception, and—most assuredly—enchantment.
If you love local theatre, be sure to check out Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. You can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, and also on podbean. Kelly Ventura is featured in 2 episodes.
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