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Enchanted April and Federal Way
Review by Peg Doman
Don and I went to see “Enchanted April" at Centerstage in Federal Way. The beautiful production was so well thought out and so well acted that it was a pleasure to be there. And this is in addition to the fact that the theater location is so beautiful with a view of Puget Sound .
“Enchanted April” is a play adapted from a movie adapted from a 1922 novel by “Elizabeth von Arnim. It was made into an RKO Radio movie in 1935, and a second adaptation, directed by Mike Newell, was released in 1992. The 1992 release received several Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. A Tony Award-nominated stage play by Matthew Barber, also adapted from the novel, was presented on Broadway in 2003” and it is currently running in Federal Way . (Wikipedia does have its uses!)
It’s a romantic, hopeful story that begins in London just after World War I, about a pensive English woman who’s in desperate need of a restful and restorative holiday.
It begins in late winter, when Lotty Wilton (Eva Doak) begins talking to Rose Arnott (Caitlin Frances), another member of her London club, about an advertisement in the Times with a castle in Italy available for rent during the month of April “to those who appreciate wisteria and sunshine.”
The words wisteria and sunshine speak to her with so much hope and warmth that she must go. She decides that her plodding lawyer husband Mellersh (Dean Wilson) would so not appreciate the expense or even the idea of a holiday so that she settles on going with three other women to share expenses, wisteria and sunshine. (The weather has been so wet and chilly the last week or more that I’m sure that I would appreciate sunshine and wisteria, too!)
So Lotty puts up her nest egg, saved from the household money that Mellersh gives her each month for household expenses, and puts an ad of her own in, seeking two other like minded women.
Lotty has already insisted that Rose must become one of the four because Lotty sees Rose each week at church and she and Mellersh call her their “disappointed madonna.” She knows that Rose is harboring some secret hurt that, with characteristic British reserve, she won’t even hint at. Rose and her husband, Frederick (Daniel Wood) have grown apart after an unspoken tragedy and she is reluctant to grieve or stop grieving, or to go on with life.
The two others are a socialite and bright young thing, Lady Caroline Bramble (Hilary Heinz), and an elderly Victorian widow, Mrs. Graves (Rosalie Hilburn), who is a throw-back to hidebound, scrupulous correctness. No husbands allowed.
The London club and the suburban sitting rooms are a minimalist nightmare, reflecting the deprivations of the war; however, when the curtain goes up in the second act on the castle, the warm lights bathing the wisteria circled around the terrace brought gasps of recognition and perhaps envy from the audience.
Rose and Lotty travel down together but their train doesn’t arrive until late at night; the other two have already arrived and staked out the two larger rooms with the best views and have had the extra beds moved into the latecomers’ rooms. So the four try to get along with each other, despite what they see as their housemates faults: Lotty’s eternal optimism, Rose’s gloom, Lady Caroline’s lack of appropriate undergarments or punctuality, and Mrs. Graves constant comments about the lack of British food, tidiness or her inability to marshal the others into her hierarchy of protocol.
After a week, Lotty relents, writes her husband and invites him to the castle so he can share in the recuperative haze of spring. Rose has finally shared her deep grief over the death of her young son and realizes she still loves Frederick and sends a telegram to him in Portugal where is the last stop on a tour to tout his latest novel. Lady Caroline has confessed that she had secretly married her officer true love just before he shipped out to France and died, and Mrs. Graves, well, she’s just Mrs. Graves. Rule Britannia.
Before the husbands arrive, the owner Antony Wilding (Jamie Pederson) arrives to make sure everything is going well. We recognize that he knows Lady Caroline from some past encounter but she is not cozying up to him. She is interested in Florien Ayres, the non de plume of Frederick Arnot. And the plot thickens and thickens.
Even the housekeeper Constanza (Walayn Sharples) is a potstirer. She’s sure that she knows what the elusive, unfriendly Lady Caroline is up to, she enjoys Lotty’s enthusiasms and obviously adores her Antony even though she is puzzled by his arrival. Constanza also has to endure the insistence of Mrs. Graves that she master a traditional English steak and kidney pie and try to measure up to a proper pot of tea.
Of course the result of the husbands and Antony visiting is “refreshment” among the ladies and the men realize the errors of their manly ways, even if they haven’t done any thing, yet.
“Enchanted April” is a sweet but not cloying concoction of joy, hope and romantic dreams. It runs through April 11 at CenterStage, in Federal Way , just over the county line from Browns Point.
The next production at CenterStage is “Ain’t Misbehavin’” the revue of Fats Waller songs. My favorites include “Your Feets Too Big” and “Black and Blue” Be advised that Centerstage has an arrangement with Lobster Shop at Dash Point and Salty’s at Redondo Beach to offer you a show and a dinner for $50 per person. That’s a good buy, especially if you compare the prices at Seattle theaters.
Single tickets are available by phone, (253) 661-1444, online at www.centerstagetheatre.com, and in person at the Knutzen Family Theater box office. Single tickets are $25 for adults; $20 for seniors, military, students 18 & over with ID; $17 tickets are available for groups of 10 or more. All shows are performed at the Knutzen Family Theatre and are general admission. There are four performances a week on Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 plus a Saturday and Sunday matinee at 2.