Enchanted April lives up to its title in Linden House production

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Poster for Enchanted April

There are understandable reasons that Elizabeth von Arnim’s 1922 novel, Enchanted April, is enjoying a renewed lease on life.

Perhaps the most obvious in this day and age is the fact that one can detect early tinges of feminism in this story of four British women of various ages and backgrounds who boldly assert their independence and team up for an idyllic holiday in an old castle in sunbaked Italy.

But other durable factors are also at play here. It is an engaging tale. It is peopled by four interesting and believable female characters. Finally, in its successful transfers to film and stage: the material has offered a bouquet of splendid acting opportunities.

Linden House’s enjoyable production rises to the occasion. Venetia Lawless’s luminous performance conveys a sense of joy, wonder and rebirth in the role of Lotty Wilton, the seemingly compliant wife who’s suddenly infused with a spirit of adventure when she spots a classified ad in The Times offering an Italian castle for rent. Jennifer Sheffield strikes an early note of frightened conformity when she meets Lotty and is presented with the opportunity of doing something daring — well, daring for that time — with her new friend. Her gradual awakening gives the production some of its best moments.

Two other widely disparate personalities complete this unlikely quartet. An exotically languid Lindsay Laviolette brings elegance and vulnerability to Lady Caroline Bramble, about whom a whiff of scandal continues to circulate — even in sunny Italy. And finally there’s the dependable Janet Uren, highly amusing as a doughty, class-conscious  dowager named Mrs. Graves.

Armed with an effective stage adaptation by Matthew Barber, director George Stonyk keeps the production moving along smoothly. And when we finally get a glimpse of that Italian paradise, we find that designers Janet Uren and Rachel Hauraney have served our expectations with an explosion of colour.

However, the opening scenes in London sometimes border on the static because of problems accommodating the Elmwood Theatre stage to the play’s design demands. A narrow front strip becomes the required acting area for those early sequences, both at home and in the London women’s club where the holiday plot is first hatched — not the happiest of situations when it comes to effective staging, but the confident performances help overcome any difficulties.

Those performances include the ones supplied by Robert Hicks and Geoffrey Gruson as a pair of husbands. They offer two distinctive takes on a key component of this play  — the affectionate but uncomprehending chauvinist spouse. Eventually both end up at the Italian castle — leading to Robert Hicks’s adroit involvement in an hilarious but perilous sight gag.

There is an effective contribution from Jesse Lalonde as the castle’s smiling owner, and a wonderful turn from Caroline Barrios whose resident domestic’s rapid-fire Italian may leave her guests bewildered but who makes up for it with body language that says all.

Reviewed by Jamie Portman, Photo from the poster of the play, courtesy of the Linden Theatre.

Enchanted April by Matthew Barber

Adapted from the novel by Elizabeth von Arnim

Elmwood Theatre to Nov. 12

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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