by Matthew Barber
from the novel by Elizabeth von Arnim
Directed by Karen Lund
Taproot Theatre
204 N. 85th St. Seattle, WA 98103 / (206) 781-9707

Reviewed by Jerry Kraft

Enchanted April” is a very soft play, almost pastel in its coloration and even where it does have a few sharp edges they bruise rather than batter, wound less than they leave the tender spots in relationships even more tender. It is the simple story of four women trying to escape the gloomy weather and even gloomier atmosphere of post World War I Britain by escaping for a month to a rented castle in Italy. There, the lush countryside and bright vegetation brings illumination and relief to their individual sense of self and to their dimmed marriages.

This is a play that speaks in very hushed tones because it is as often about inner voices as it is about verbal communication. It requires quiet modulation and careful accent to guide us to an understanding of these women as they come to understand each other. The women's characters are well-drawn and compelling, the husbands less so. The script is very smart and uses judiciously placed comedy, usually very bright lines, to energize and propel the action. This production is well cast and director Karen Lund uses her subtlety and insight, her excellent theatrical taste, to keep the drama elegant and entertaining.

Lotty Wilson is the driving force behind this great adventure, a woman so constrained within her stifling marriage to Mellersh Wilton (the appropriately stultifying Ryan Childers) that we know she either has to do something or she's going to suffocate. Charity Parenzini is a wonderfully vibrant actress and she brings delightful vitality to Lotty. She really is the peek of sunshine that tells us these women can emerge from their cloudy lives. Her first task is to convince her friend Rose Arnott, abandoned at home while her husband, Frederick, travels on endless book tours to promote his commercial, pseudonymous novels. Nikki Visel plays Rose with great containment, perhaps a bit too much, but it certainly makes us realize how important stability is to this woman, and that makes the threat of infidelity presented by her husband all the more precipitous. Jeff Berryman does an excellent job of giving the rather underwritten role of Frederick some depth and sobriety, allowing us to understand him and forgive him his infidelity in ways that his wife never has to. That infidelity is with the beautiful and sorrowful Lady Caroline Bramble, a secret widow of the War and a far more substantial person than her position requires. Anne Kennedy played the part beautifully, retaining her dignity through the loss of two men she loved and letting us understand why she is so reluctant to let anyone really know her.

In the comic role of the dowager, Kim Morris played Mrs. Graves with all the pomposity and supercilious rectitude the role required, and still managed to warm her in the Tuscan sun. Aaron Finley was as lightweight as a seersucker suit in his role as the travel agent who arranges this whole affair and Llysa Holland got great comic material from the role of the housemaid Costanza.

The production accomplished everything the script sets out to achieve; an intimate, relaxed encounter with four women trying to find a light at the end of the darkness, a personal affirmation within their social roles, and a connection with those they love and those who love them. That's a pretty serious ambition in what is, in many ways, a miniature drama. And, in it's very quiet way, in its subtle escape to a better place where people can find their better angels, it is quite enchanting.

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