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‘April’ provides escapism

Russ Simmons Theater Reviewer

Courtesy Photo
Bill Warren and Katie Gilchrist in the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre’s production of ‘Enchanted April.’

ENCHANTED APRIL

The universal desire to depart from one’s dreary daily life has been the inspiration for many an example of theatrical escapism.

The Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre’s production of “Enchanted April” is a case in point. This sunny and genial play clings to its optimistically romantic notions without a whiff of apology. It’s enough to make Pollyanna seem like a cynic.
Matthew Barber’s 2003 stage adaptation of Elizabeth von Arnim’s 1922 bestselling comedy has been given a lighthearted presentation by director Linda Ade Brand and an appealing cast.

The story begins just after World War I in the incessant rain of bleak Georgian London. Lotte Wilton (Katie Gilchrist) yearns to put some spark back into her banal marriage with husband Mellersh (Bill Warren), a neglectful, no-nonsense lawyer.

After reading a newspaper advertisement promoting the short-term rental of a small castle in a secluded coastal area of Italy, Lotte plans a holiday with a new acquaintance, Rose Arnott (Silvia Stoner).

Although the uptight Rose is initially reluctant, her marriage is unhappy as well. Her husband, Fredrick (John Robert Paisley), is the author of scandalous novels that are an embarrassment to her.

Lotte and Rose recruit two more English ladies to join them on their escape, Lady Caroline Bramble (Danelle Drury) a beautiful and “modern” young noble, and Mrs. Graves (Marilyn Lynch), a judgmental and obstinate widow.

Barber has constructed his adaptation in the most logical manner, with act one taking place in dreary old England and act two set at the idyllic Italian villa. This setup is also slightly problematic, however.

While act one appropriately reflects the repressive and austere social environment the ladies endure at home, it also makes it a bit of a dramatic slog. Thankfully, act two in radiant Mezzago, Italy, provides the story with the spark of energy it requires.

The cast is uniformly fine. The characters played by Gilchrist and Stoner could easily have been annoying, but the actresses imbue them with heart. Lynch is marvelous as the old matron whose icy demeanor melts in the warm Italian sun.

Although her part is arguably underwritten, Drury brings some shades of depth to her privileged but lonely character. Nancy Marcy has fun chewing the scenery as an earthy Italian housekeeper, and Coleman Crenshaw is appropriately bewildered as the villa’s British landlord.

Doss Freel’s clever scenic design makes efficient of the MET’s limited space. (Audience members are asked to leave the theater during intermission to allow the stage crew to transform the set.) Nicole Christianson’s vibrant costumes also add to the visual ambiance.

While audiences may not quite be “translated” by “Enchanted April,” this amenable comedy provides two hours of cheery escapism.

Enchanted April” runs through April 23 at the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre, 3614 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. For tickets, visit http://www.metkc.org or call (816) 569-3226.

Review at KC Community News

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