If I had only looked at the title and synopsis of Enchanted April, running now through October 23rd at the Taproot Theater, I would probably have thought that it was a bit too predictable to be worth my time. The story of two English housewives, one too vivacious for sullen England and the other who resembles a “tragic Madonna", who one rainy (literally) day decide to rent a castle in Italy and find two more women to share the expenses, an aging matron and a young flapper, can really only have a few endings. The story sounds perfect for a movie or candy novel. Which of course it is.
Charity Parenzini and Nikki Visel in Enchanted April. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.
Enchanted April is based upon Elizabeth von Arnim’s novel was adapted for the stage in 1925 and inspired not one but two movies. This adaptation interestingly enough though written before the movies runs a bit like one. The beginning and ending are both monologues of Lotty Wilson, played by Charity Parenzini. The two lacked effective presentation and feel like they should be said over the loudspeaker. They fit not to introduce a continuous narrator but as mild philosophy and succinct epilogue. Mrs. Wilson stood in the middle of the stage and sort of windmilled her arms about while telling the story. It gave the audience something that sounded good but wasn’t much to look at.
However, these were truly minor sections of the play and though an ill-fitting frame the picture inside was fantastic. Italy works as a panacea for the women turning ill emotions into love and orneriness into peace while capturing quite the laughs. The changes in the characters occur because it takes people to change a person. Each character had some sort of serious background that made the audience care and relate to them since their tragedies were not absurd. In many works self-realization focuses on how alone one finds self but Enchanted April does the opposite. It shows how one can rely on others and that it is sometimes the only way to discover one’s self.
This point was excellently delivered by the cast, which included strong male and female characters. The performance allowed couples and widows to be paralleled but not identical once by literally placing both on stage in parallel scenes. This worked well except for the fact that the more interesting scene was in the back and one had to listen very hard to get even half of the words spoken. However, the snippets that one does hear allow intrigue to build for the second act. Which of course contains a no-nonsense Italian maid who subtly steals the show with her quick incomprehensible wit.
As a whole Enchanted April was a fresh though classic flower. The ending is in fact predictable but it is, though moderately cliché to say, more about the journey than the ending. It explores less solemn ways to discover or re-discover one’s happiness giving the audience equal measure to cry and laugh which makes the laughing just that much better.
- Paulina P.
September 25th, 2009
Taproot Theatre Company
Through October 23rd