Apr 24-May 03, 2009
|Lady Caroline Bramble|
|House Manager Coordinator|
An enchanting story of friendship, love and transformation
Get swept away to a land of wisteria and sunshine with 'Enchanted April'
- By Jaylene Watkins, Las Cruces Bulletin
"For every after found, a before must be lost," is a profound and intriguing statement in the opening scene of Matthew Barber's "Enchanted April," now on stage at the Black Box Theatre. This romantic comedy is a timeless story of how the human spirit clings to the past while longing for a sense of renewal.
The story unfolds in the early 1920s in London during a cold, rainy spring. Lotty Wilton and Rose Arnott (Ilene Steele and Nancy Clein), two women who have never spoken although they belong to the same church and ladies club, are drawn to a London Times "advert" for a month-long rental of an Italian villa. Steele's optimistic, Pollyanna-like portrayal of Lotty is amusing opposite Clein's seemingly stern and resistant depiction of Rose.
Both women are desperately unhappy in their marriages, though for different reasons. Lotty, nervous and talkative, is oppressed by her husband, family solicitor and society man Mellerrsh Wilton (Bob Singer).
Longing for an escape from the London rain and the dark clouds of her marriage, Lotty convinces Rose, a nearstranger, to travel with her to the sunny, lush coast of the Mediterranean. The solemn, pious and secretly troubled Rose despises the career change of her husband Frederick Arnott (Pete Medina), who abandoned poetry to writehistorical romances under the pseudonym Florian Ayers (a would-be playboy).
Lotty, who insists the women can only go forward, not back, and Rose enlist two very different female traveling companions to share expenses: a beautiful young socialite, Lady Caroline Bramble (Autumn Gieb), who is lonely despite her status, and an autocratic older woman, Mrs. Graves (Robin Dorfman), who prefers to "sit and reflect" on the "before" aspects of her life.
Gieb's British accent seems natural and is carried well throughout the performance. Dorfman's portrayal of Mrs. Graves received praise as an audience favorite. Also introduced in the first act is Antony Wilding (Wil Moore) who is charming as villa's landlord.
It is during the second act, set in Mezzago on the Italian coast, when the women transform from who they were "before," and each - in her own way - discovers a new "after." Lotty and Rose shed their clouded spirit and don white gowns, as if they arrived in heaven.
As the two women become even more enchanted by their surroundings, they decide to send for their husbands. Mellerrsh arrives and is taken aback by the change he sees in his wife who is no longer anxious, but carefree.
Frederick arrives at the villa seeking Lady Caroline, but is surprised to find his wife, Rose, formerly deadpan in her expressions, now abounding with joy in her spirit.
The villa begins to work its charm on the husbands, and they seem to blossom almost as much as their wives. Singer's natural abilities and knack for comedy offer a delightful depiction of Mellerrsh's transformation from stuffy and domineering to open-minded. Medina brings a bit of humor to Frederick's playboy demeanor.
Of course, Lady Caroline and Mrs.
Graves are also transformed during theholiday. Lady Caroline begins to say goodbye to her past and envisions a new future, and Mrs. Graves slowly relaxes and begins to live in the present rather than the past.
The wit of Costanza (Kathi Jane), the villa's maid, almost steals the show.
Although many of Costanza's comedic lines are in Italian, Jane's command of facial expressions and body language bring a level of delight to the production. Director Nikka Gornitza Ziemer, who previously appeared in productions at both the Las Cruces Community Theatre and the Black Box, and has directed a smattering of plays, gathered a terrific cast and crew for her first major work which will delight audiences
Although opening-night jitters were somewhat noticeable, this stage production is sure to leave your heart warmed and your human spirit enchanted.
Prudish Brits escape to castle in Italy, hilarity ensues
- By Jacob Divett ,
Total strangers rent a castle in Italy for a month in hopes of escaping the rainy weather of their native England, among other things, in Enchanted April, the new play at the Black Box Theatre.
Cranky and prudish Mrs. Arnott (Nancy Clein) is startled when she is approached out of the blue by the enthusiastic Mrs. Wilton (Ilene Steele), with whom she has never before spoken. She is further alarmed when Mrs. Wilton says she has seen a vision of the two of them vacationing in Italy.
In spite of her initial fears, Mrs. Arnott eventually gets caught up in Mrs. Wilton's enthusiasm. The two start recruiting other women to help them rent a castle for the month of April. They end up enlisting a young aristocrat named Lady Caroline (Autumn Gieb) and an angry old widow named Mrs. Graves (Robin Dorfman). The motley crew then warily heads to Italy, each nursing wounds that only sunshine and friendship can cure, or so they hope.
The play follows the women on their journey as the versatile cast creates moments that are heartbreaking one minute and hilarious the next.
"I liked the redemptive element of the play," said director Nikka Ziemer. "People struggle with things that are kind of soul-crushing, life can do that to so many of us, and yet there's a way to find something good and beautiful."
The play's emotional authenticity comes from the great chemistry of the actors.
"We have such a great group, we're like a close knit family," said Wil Moore, who played Antony Wilding. "I think people like the romantic element, how everyone is changed by their experience."
Some would consider Enchanted April the theatrical equivalent of a "chick flick." Think Steel Magnolias with British women instead of southern belles.
"It's a great girl play, and it is really humorous, but subtle humor, not slapstick," Clein said. "The accent was the hardest part, and normally I'm kind of an 'in your face' kind of girl, so it was hard for me to be so uptight."
Overall, Enchanted April carries with it a message of hope.
"I thought it was just a lovely story, and I love how one person gets everyone's lives to change because she's willing to try," Steele said.
No seating plan has been posted.