HomeNewsBusinessCultureHealthVideoNewsletter

Shaw Festival Review: ENCHANTED APRIL

By today’s standards Enchanted April may seem naively romantic and somewhat predictable, but it touches a chord deep in us that transcends time and place.

By: Hermine Steinberg
Published: July 29th, 2013 in Culture » Stage » Reviews
Maria McLeanPic: Emily Cooper

Enchanted April is the feel good play of the season. It is a theatrical production that is much more than the sum of its parts. By today’s standards it may seem naively romantic and somewhat predictable but it touches a chord deep in us that transcends time and place.

Elizabeth von Armin’s novel, The Enchanted April, was published in 1922 when women were beginning to awaken to the fact that they may actually have choices in their lives. The world was still trying to heal after the “war to end all wars” and everyone profoundly understood that life could not be taken for granted. In April of 1921 von Arnim was 55 and already widowed from her first marriage, and divorced from her second. She was also apparently being pursued by a handsome 25 year old man. She decided to rent a ‘castello’ in Portofino with two other women. That is where she began writing The Enchanted April. Although the stage adaptation by Matthew Barber is a somewhat watered down version of the novel, he is able to capture the charm and promise or possibility of reinvention that laid at the heart of von Arnim’s story, and that most of us at some point in our lives have dreamt about. It is a truly romantic and uplifting fairytale.

Enchanted April is the story of four very different women who respond to the call of “wisteria and sunshine” in Italy. Much like van Arnim’s own experience, they agree to rent a small castle on the Italian seashore for the month of April. Lotty is the instigator who convinces Rose that they were fated to escape their dreary and depressing lives, and the husbands they no longer can tolerate. They place an ad to which the beautiful and wealthy flapper, Lady Caroline, and the formidable and prurient Mrs. Graves respond. Despite differences in age, class, and circumstances, they all share in their desire for change and together they begin their journey of self-discovery. Von Arnim’s deep and personal understanding of oppressive marriages and suppressed desires are intricately woven into the story.

The castle provides the women the solitude and break from routine that allows them to explore who they are and what is really important to them. It becomes their retreat, a place of rest and rebirth. As ‘sisters’ they learn to suspend judgement of each other and instead offer compassion and concern, the nurturing and intimacy each has longed for and that ultimately becomes the fuel for their transformation.

William Schmuck’s sets create the perfect backdrop for this sensual fable, taking us from the bleak and monotone London lives that the women wish to escape to ‘paradiso’. The audience experiences the breathtaking metamorphosis of the set in act two, revealing the brilliantly coloured land of promise.

Enchanted April has a strong cast led by four women, talented veterans of the Shaw Festival. Moya O’Connell plays the unstoppable Lotty Wilton whose visions and desperate need to break away from a stifling husband gives her the courage to make a change. O’Connell’s vitality and magnetism engage the audience from the first scene. Tara Rosling is the “disappointed Madonna”, Rose Arnott, who is searching for redemption. She expertly creates a fragile woman consumed by guilt and fear, closing herself off to the joys of life, including her husband who has now found other ways to distract himself from their marital problems. The ‘modern’ Lady Caroline is made sympathetic and elegant by Marla McLean who masterfully conveys the angst of the Lost Generation. Last but certainly not least is Donna Belleville as Mrs. Graves, the aging widow who is stuck and lonely living in the past. Belleville is able to strike a perfect balance between cantankerous and forlorn, creating a believable and empathetic character that could otherwise be reduced to comic relief.

Jeff Meadows and Patrick Galligan are the husbands who are forced to take a step back to gain a new perspective and a new opportunity to reconnect with their wives. Consistent with the themes of taking chances and stepping out of one’s comfort zone, Meadows’ bath scene is genuinely surprising and funny. Both men deliver solid performances as the men left behind but not forgotten. Kevin McGarry is the handsome young ‘landlord’ of the castle who provides the four women with the attention and hospitality they need to begin to rekindle their passion for life. He exudes the charm befitting a devoted child, another void filled for Lotty, Rose and Mrs. Graves within the walls of their enchanted world.

Sharry Flett provides some humorous moments as Constanza, the Italian housekeeper, but at times her over the top delivery seems more peculiar than comical.

Related articles: Shaw Festival, Enchanted April, Niagara on the Lake, Review, Elizabeth von Armin, Young Adult, Fantasy, Romantic, YA, The Co-Walkers
0 times
THEATRE REVIEW: ‘Next to Normal’ Explores Mental Illness & Modern

Toronto’s latest production of the Tony-Award winning Broadway play, ‘Next to Normal’, runs at the Lower Ossington Theatre until September 29th.

Shaw Festival Review: THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA

This musical based on Elizabeth Spencer’s novella is truly an exceptional production.

Shaw Festival Review: ARCADIA

Stoppard is considered by many as one of our greatest living playwrights, an eccentric genius who loves to challenge his audiences, and Arcadia his masterwork.

Shaw Festival Review: ENCHANTED APRIL

By today’s standards Enchanted April may seem naively romantic and somewhat predictable, but it touches a chord deep in us that transcends time and place.

Shaw Festival Review: PEACE IN OUR TIME: A COMEDY

John Murrell updates George Bernard Shaw’s controversial but convoluted satire, Geneva.

Shaw Festival Review: OUR BETTERS

Maugham’s well-known cynicism, misogyny, and superficiality are front and center in this play about wealthy American daughters who travel to England at the turn of the century to trade money for social status

THEATRE REVIEW: ‘Next to Normal’ Explores Mental Illness & Modern

Toronto’s latest production of the Tony-Award winning Broadway play, ‘Next to Normal’, runs at the Lower Ossington Theatre until September 29th.

Shaw Festival Review: THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA

This musical based on Elizabeth Spencer’s novella is truly an exceptional production.

Shaw Festival Review: ARCADIA

Stoppard is considered by many as one of our greatest living playwrights, an eccentric genius who loves to challenge his audiences, and Arcadia his masterwork.

Shaw Festival Review: ENCHANTED APRIL

By today’s standards Enchanted April may seem naively romantic and somewhat predictable, but it touches a chord deep in us that transcends time and place.

Shaw Festival Review: PEACE IN OUR TIME: A COMEDY

John Murrell updates George Bernard Shaw’s controversial but convoluted satire, Geneva.

Shaw Festival Review: OUR BETTERS

Maugham’s well-known cynicism, misogyny, and superficiality are front and center in this play about wealthy American daughters who travel to England at the turn of the century to trade money for social status

news_scroll_down
OUR FACEBOOK FANS
Blogs
Take Responsibility for Your Own

The 19 year old sophomore sat on the exam table looking at the floor. A college student with obvious charm

The Stanford Prison Experiment at

In 1971, researchers set up a prison in the basement of Stanford University’s Psychology Department. The idea was to

U.S. vs. Europe: Health Care

As I have tried to make abundantly clear the United States is the only country in the industrialized world that

Hands Off America

Alright, that does it.Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Americans have been willing to do their part for

Fat Returns After Liposuction …

A study appeared in a journal titled “Obesity” which was reported by a group from the University of Colorado. In

What does Victory Look Like?

Sixty-five years ago today, World War II officially came to an end. On September 2, 1945, Japanese Foreign Minister

Share This Story With Your Friends!

Your Name:

Friend’s Name:

E-Mail:

Friend’s E-Mail:

(This information will not be displayed publicly)

Optional Message: