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Sweet, breezy “Enchanted April”

From KC Metropolis: Kansas City’s Online Journal for the Performing Arts

By Libby Hanssen   Tue, Apr 12, 2011

The Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre’s little comedy of manners, “Enchanted April” tells the story of a post-WWI ladies’ holiday to Italy.

Sweet, breezy "Enchanted April"

The Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre put on a sweet little comedy of manners in Enchanted April. The production was enjoyable, but faltered at a few points, causing a somewhat lackluster show. The script was an adaption by Matthew Barber from Elizabeth von Arnim’s 1922 novel.

Director Linda Ade Brand worked with a talented cast of veterans. The material offered many funny lines which allowed for great comedic work from the actors, though the more serious undercurrents never rose to a level of importance to develop any lasting tension. The characters weren’t given much room to develop beyond our first perceptions, the relationships came across as stilted, and the resolution inorganic. The design lacked finesse, with both costumes and set exhibiting a raw quality that didn’t fit with the era. However, the overall appeal of the piece came through as the characters explored freedoms beyond their social norms.

Set first in England after World War I, the story follows two proper middle class women, Lotte Wilton and Rose Arnott, who feel trapped by their social roles and unhappy marriages. Unbeknownst to their husbands, they arrange for a vacation to an Italian castle. To help cover expenses they advertise for two other ladies to join them and the interested parties turn out to be a young “modern” woman, Lady Caroline Bramble, and a very proper, disapproving older woman, Mrs. Graves. Once in Italy, the social roles are thrown off and they enjoy personal and emotional freedom, which ironically makes them miss their husbands. With the addition of the owner of the castle, a young, well-mannered artist, and the bawdy, high-energy cook Costanza, the party is complete.

Katie Gilchrist opened the performance with an enthusiastic monologue foreshadowing the overarching theme of allowing love to blossom naturally. Gilchrist played the impulsive and easygoing Lotte Wilton with a naïve eagerness that pulled everyone into her vacation scheme. Her somewhat reluctant co-conspirator, Rose Arnott, was played by Sylvia Stoner with a gracefully sorrowful mien.

William Grey Warren (Mellersh Wilton) and John Robert Paisley (Frederick Arnott) played their husbands. Warren brought more physical humor, as a rather pompous, unaware fish out of water, and Paisley played the successful novelist gadding about town with society ladies while his wife stays home. Coleman Crenshaw played the charming Anthony Wilding, owner of the castle, who delighted the women with his conscientious and polite manner.

The aloof Lady Caroline was played by Danelle Drury with a world-weary sophistication. The most humorous performances were by Marilyn Lynch as Mrs. Graves and Nancy Marcy as Costanza. Their back and forth scenes with Mrs. Graves refusing to bend her strict English ways and Costanza deliberate misunderstanding of instructions made for numerous enjoyable moments. Marcy as Costanza was performed in dramatic Italian which made use of delightful physical humor as well.

All told, the play ended with a sweet affirmation of love and renewal. The actors brought out the finest qualities in their characters and left the audience with a pleasant feeling of hope.

REVIEW:
Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre
Enchanted April
Runs through April 23rd (Reviewed Thursday, April 7th at 7:30 PM)
3614 Main St, Kansas City, MO
For tickets call 816-569-3226 or visit www.metkc.org.

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