Let enchantment bridge the gap between your befores and afters at the Silver Spring Stage’s production of Enchanted April. Directed by Laurie T. Freed this fun little comedy is perfect for springtime. Two miserable English housewives in their humdrum rainy day to day life embark on the adventure of a life time; a month-long holiday at a seaside castle in Italy. Without their husbands. Add in society’s premier entertainer and a crotchety old widow as their holiday companions and its sure to be a recipe for excitement, merriment, and an all round good time. Finding an advertisement in the paper that read “to those who appreciate wisteria and sunshine…” sets the show in motion for a rollicking good time.
Set Designer Anna Britton has her work cut out for her. Taking on the task of designing an outdoor Italian paradise indoors on a tight stage is no small feat. But Britton not only manages this glorious haven but also executes a flawless way to hide it until its appearance in Act II. The castle is created with that rough but warm stucco exterior and brilliant blue window and door frames. There are flowers galore, a tropical haven of floral excellence blooming along the woodwork; especially wisteria clinging to the wooden trellis, draping the gardens in a soft purple beauty. Britton with Lighting Designer Peter Caress to create warm sunny mornings and stunning moonlit evenings on the veranda of this palace. Caress and Britton truly create the paradise that Lotty so frequently references throughout the show.
Director Laura T. Freed coaches her cast to the correct sounding dialect of London post World War I. This is translated flawlessly among the women, and unfortunately very unevenly among the men. Our leading ladies sound every bit the proper English housewives while their husbands sound muddled, Frederick and Mr. Wilding at times not even having hints of the accent causing them to sound American.
Despite their accents or lack thereof the men do provide excellent supporting roles in this comedy. Mellersh (Eric Henry) plays the extremely reserved husband of Lotty and does so with subtle finesse; his bristly personality is more than clear when he discusses the frivolities of holidays and his wife’s easily distracted mood. Frederick (Jonathan Dyer) creates the perfect antagonist for Rose. Dyer seems to press all the right buttons with his cheerful personality and yearning to live the double life of a sinful writer, driving his wife to misery. And then Mr. Wilding (Bob Scott), who is husband to no one, provides the neutral charming base with which all the women interact agreeably. Scott’s character is a balance for the others on stage, providing movement to the plot at just the right moments.
Lotty (Natalie McManus) is the revolving point of the story. All of her actions and emotions drive the story from beginning to end. McManus gives a stellar performance loaded with a frenetic energy that bubbles and bounces all over the place. Her mind and words are like a hummingbird, constantly in rapid motion and wrapped in cheerful tones with blissful smiles upon her face. She’s practically bursting with this giddy feeling that presents itself in the way she springs around the stage, even her hands appear to be vibrating at times in her excitement. McManus carries the show on her shoulders, and her energy and exuberance dominates the show.
Playing opposite of McManus is Annette Kalicki as Rose. The exact opposite of McManus’s character, Rose is reserved, subtle and very emotionally quiet. Her energy is contained tightly within her, expressed only through exasperate facial gestures and vocal intonations. Kalicki creates the perfect foil for McManus, giving her a sounding board at times, and adding conflict to the story. Her interactions with McManus grow to be sisterly and she manages to slip out of her introverted shell by the end of the production. Kalicki does have a rewarding moment when she finds a vocally violent outburst on the train, regret and uncertainty prevailing on her face throughout the scene.
And there’s comedy to be had with Costanza (Shelley Rochester) the villa’s housekeeper. Rochester speaks only in Italian to the guests, and gets along splendidly with everyone except Mrs. Graves (Patricia Kratzer.) Kratzer is the stereotypical crotchety old bat, set in her ways and stubborn. When matched up against Rochester comical moments ensue, creating hilarity for all to enjoy. Kratzer does show a softer side, however subtly, when interacting with the troubled Caroline Bramble (Sonia Motlagh). The pair take to each other almost like an estranged mother and daughter. When the four ladies take the stage together it really is a sight to behold, and an enjoyment for all. The show is like a lesson in gardening- four plants sprout new roots and bloom the new blossoms of their future in this heart-warming comedy.
So to those who appreciate wisteria and sunshine, be sure to reply to the advertisement of this production and take a holiday to go see Enchanted April at Silver Spring Stage.
Running Time: Two hours and 20 minutes, with one intermission.
Enchanted April plays through April 29, 2012 at Silver Spring Stage – 10145 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, MD. For tickets, call the box office (301) 593-6036, or purchase them online.