Review: “Enchanted April” (Cedar Falls Community Theatre)

Last night, I was pleasantly surprised by a production at CFCT. In fact, Enchanted April may be one of the better productions I’ve seen this year.

In a post-World War I England, two women, Lotty Wilton (Diane Maxwell) and Rose Arnott (Susan Brown-Wadleigh), meet at a ladies club with the aid of an ad advertisement for a castle in Italy that is available for rent in the month of April. Some time away from their husbands would be lovely, but the rent is 60. So they call on two more ladies in need of a vacation, the young Lady Caroline Bramble (Erin Lund) and the old austere Mrs. Graves (Linda Merritt). Everything seems to be great, right?

Well, that’s until Mellersh Wilton (John Mardis) and Frederick Arnott (Duane McDonald) find out about it. Not to mention there’s the fact that Bramble is the perfect image of the roaring twenties and Mrs. Graves-well, it’s obvious that she’s from a different time. But the plan goes on.

While this may seem like the perfect workings for a farce, Enchanted April seems to be a bit far from a farce. The show, in fact, carries the mood and feel of a drama. While there are some incredibly hilarious parts in the show, a majority of the finest moments in the show are rather moving.

The wonderful thing about Enchanted April is that the characters do not have monotonous emotions and reactions, something that this production seems to understand and convey very well. The various facades of the characters melt away during the month spent at the castle.

Maxwell’s delivery of the show’s opening monologue is spot-on. Although I was sitting in the audience wondering “What is she doing with an umbrella inside of a building?”, I quickly realized that she was outside of the setting for the first scene. Maxwell also carries the varying moods of Lotty with ease and portrays the character’s schoolgirl ebullience very well. Brown-Wadleigh is also very good as Rose with showing the character’s different emotions and reactions very well.

The finest performance is given by Stephanie Althof as the Italian housekeeper Costanza. The character only speaks in Italian and unless the audience speaks Italian, one will not know exactly what she is saying. However, Althof’s body language conveys the meaning of the words in order to give the audience a vague idea of what she’s saying. This also contributes to the comedic feel of act two.

Mardis and McDonald have probably the two smallest roles in the show, but are very good in them. I was in fact a bit disappointed that Frederick Arnott does not appear more often in the show because of how superb McDonald’s performance is.

Lund and Merritt are both very good in the show. Lund portrays the young socialite with ease and speaks with a natural sounding English accent. Merritt is great as Graves by not only showing the bitchiness of the character, but also showing the change in her at the castle. The best scene in the show is in the second act between the characters simply because of how the actors play it.

The one character that I did not like was Antony Wilding (Brent Hansen). It may not be the actor’s fault, but the character simply seems to be there to help with things and maybe move the story along. The character seemed to be lacking in the emotions seen in the other seven. Again, this may not be the fault of the actor, but that of the author.

Rick Maxwell’s lighting is very subtle, but suitable in the show. The lighting at the end of the show is an excellent example of this because the lights are dimmer along with a blue light on a backdrop, but this is fitting because of the scene being in the night time.

Act one is a brisk set-up of act two that gives us a glimpse of the character’s lives. Act two drags a bit, but not to the point that it becomes tedious, annoying or just flat-out unbearable. The most boring moments in the show are the scene changes, particularly the final one. If I hadn’t read the play beforehand, I would have thought that the show was over because of it’s length. On the upside, one can sit back and enjoy Maxwell’s lighting design during this scene change.

Enchanted April is a delightful, moving play about the lives of eight people that is done with skill and a delicate touch. Like the trip takes the characters away from the dreary, rainy environment of England, so does the play take us away from the world that we are presently living in.

(Enchanted April continues it’s run on October 10-12 at the Oster Regent Theatre in Cedar Falls. Tickets are available by dialing 319-277-5283. The show is directed by George Glenn.)

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