“Enchanted April” – Arizona Theatre Company

This review aired on KBAQ October 13, 2008


Arizona Theatre Company, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

Amidst the bleak economic news comes Arizona Theatre Company’s captivating and charming “Enchanted April” season opener. The delicate coming-to-terms-with-reality tale enthralls in this amusing but insightful comedy with an encouraging message.

Playwright Matthew Barber based his 2003 play on Elizabeth von Arnim’s popular 1922 novel. It’s an early women’s rights story about four unfulfilled women who decide to escape dreary London for a sunshine encrusted and lushly foliaged Italian castle. This vacation revitalizes them. Two women are in unsatisfying marriages where their condescending husbands dominate them. A gruff widow and a mourning swinger who lost her true love to World War I complete the quartet. These unhappy women represent different strata of English culture and all have a different take on life. Their trip instills renewed vigor toward the importance of fulfilling and satisfying lives. What an encouraging message for these challenging economic times.

Timothy Near’s impeccable staging artfully transports audiences back to 1922. Flawless casting transforms each performer into their respective character believably. These performers invite audiences into their world as you become part of their marvelous turnarounds. Add a beautiful production and evocative musical underscoring and it’s easy to see why this “Enchanted April” betters the Broadway staging.

The play centers on Lotty. She responds to an ad for the castle and has the insight to use her emergency cash to escape her stogy lawyer husband, Mellersh. She entrances a fellow churchgoer, Rose, who doesn’t understand her writer husband, Frederick’s, social world. The staunch Mrs. Graves, a stark woman who uses a rigorous routine to escape facing life, and Lady Caroline, a snotty socialite who lost her husband to the War, complete the quartet.

The play’s first act led to much intermission chatter about what would become of these characters after their Italian adventure. The results are surprising as are the people they invite to join them.

Finnerty Steeves’ Lotty flits from idea to idea but has more sense than we initially see. Kathryn Meisle’s Rose is uptight but has the grandest transformation. Monette Magrath is all front as Lady Caroline but she rediscovers life and love. Patricia Kilgarriff’s Mrs. Graves is abruptly uptight but becomes a new person. Matthew Floyd Miller’s Mellersh is an unbending male chauvinist until life enraptures him. Al Espinosa’s arrogant Frederick develops insight. Tony Roach shines as the castle’s relaxed owner, and Lynn Soffer plays the Italian maid, Costanza, comically.

“Enchanted April” is a delightful surprise that keeps the distressing economy in its place. The play continues through October 26. For tickets, call the Arizona Theatre Company box office at 602-256-6995 or go online at www.arizonatheatre.org.

Grade: A