Enchanted April: Linden House production is charming and well acted

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Enchanted April
By Matthew Barber
Based on the novel The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim
Linden House
Directed by George Stonyk

Would that a month’s vacation in a foreign land, surrounded by flowers, sunshine and ocean, could solve the problems of daily life.

Maybe it did for author Elizabeth von Arnim, whose 1922 novel The Enchanted April was inspired by the month she spent at Castello Brown in Portofino on the Italian Riviera. It certainly spawned two stage plays (1925 and 2003), two movies (1935 and 1992) and even a musical (2010) and is credited with having made Portofino popular as a vacation destination.

In any format, Enchanted April is primarily about the way that relaxing in beautiful surroundings can change attitudes and, therefore, relationships. There are no major events. Squabbles among guests are smoothed away. Even such potential crises as the meeting of a wife and mistress (perhaps) and the third point of the triangle are averted. 

The key is that escaping from the dreariness of routine in post-war London in 1922 has restorative powers. So four women with only unhappiness in common take the cure. The impulsive Lotty is the first to see a Times advertisement offering an Italian castle surrounded by wisteria and sunshine for rent. She persuades the straitlaced, religious Rose to join her, leaving their husbands and marital misery behind for the month. The two then place their own ad for traveling companions to share the cost of their holiday. Thus, the sad socialite, Lady Caroline, and the imperious widow, Mrs. Graves, are added to the incongruous mix. The fifth wheel at the castle is the unilingual Italian housekeeper, Costanza.

As they learn to cope with each other’s foibles and enjoy the restorative powers of their surroundings, they are visited by the castle owner and the two husbands, who like their wives, blossom into contentment in the beautiful surroundings.

As directed by George Stonyk, the Linden House production takes full advantage of the contrast between the formality and drabness of London in 1922 and the sun-filled charm of the Italian resort. With the four women in equally formal and drab, dark clothes backed by grey curtain through Act I, the very different ambience of the well-dressed, bright colours of the expansive vista of Act II is underlined.

However, there is some risk in the limited space and movement employed through the first half of the play. Without fine performances and subtle behavioural changes, this section could have moved very slowly. However, Stonyk’s tight direction and fine performances from all cast members, particularly Venetia Lawless as Lotty, keep audience attention focused and prepare us for the joyous atmosphere of enchantment in the second act. The terrific body language of the bubbly Carolina Barrios as Costanza during this section also deserves acknowledgement.

The technical aspects, especially David Magladry’s bright lighting design and Monica Browness’ and Jane Sadler’s period costumes, add to the enjoyment of a production that is full of charm — as do the welcoming front-of-house personnel.

The Linden House production of Enchanted April continues at Elmwood Theatre to November 12.

Reviewed by Iris Winston.

Director: George Stonyk

Set: Janet Uren, Rachel Hauraney

Sound: Bradley McInlay

Lighting: David Magladry

Costumes: Monica Browness, Jane Sadler

Pianist: Jenny Ross

Cast:

Lotty Wilton……………………………………………..Venetia Lawless

Rose Arnott………………………………………………Jennifer Sheffield

Mellersh Wilton………………………………………….Robert Hicks

Frederick Arnott………………………………………….Geoffrey Gruson

Lady Caroline Bramble…………………………………..Lindsay Laviolette

Mrs. Graves………………………………………………Janet Uren

Antony Wilding…………………………………………..Jesse Lalonde

Costanza………………………………………………….Caroline Barrios 


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