'April' May Enchant

Clockwise from left: April flowers enshroud Enchanted’s Theresa Bishop, Heather Kelley, and Emily Spicer.
Enchanted April
8pm Fri, 7pm Sat, 2:30pm Sun
Through April 7
$20 general, $18 seniors and military, $12 students
The San Pedro Playhouse Cellar Theater
800 W Ashby
Enchanted April is a rather misleading, expectation-building title if you don’t look back longingly on the days of “dress allowances” or find the whiff of wisteria orgasm-inducing. To the rest of you, I suggest you take not a grain but a heap of salt, and also your grandmother — I know mine would have cherished it, bless her heart — to this Cellar production.

The first act of April (a play based on a 1922 novel by Elizabeth von Armin) subtly speaks to the phenomenon of marriage’s power to vanquish all other relationships. When protagonist Lotty, a hyper housewife, finally speaks to somber Rose (a deadpan Heather Kelley), it is after she has observed her for ages at church, dubbing her “The disappointed Madonna.” Their verbal communication is a great leap, only occurring because Lotty discovers an advertisement in the paper for the rental of an Italian wisteria-enshrouded castle, and decides they are destined for this holiday together.

In order to afford the place, Lotty and her resistant fellow ladies-clubber put out an advertisement of their own, for traveling companions. They wind up with fill-in-the-quirk cohorts: the strict, walnut-enamoured Mrs. Graves, and the cognac-soaked, table-dancing Lady Caroline Bramble.

The fun of Enchanted April is in its husband-defying, girl-road-tripping first half; unfortunately the second digresses into pouting, petty arguments between the women, and Lotty’s (or better, Theresa Bishop’s) somewhat shrill repetitions of “heaven!” and “paradiso!” Their escape to Italy was supposed to be about doffing inhibition: Turns out that just means taking the boat out for a row. How vulgar!

Lotty’s excitement and self-mythologizing is contagious before intermission, but after, it begins to wear on you (or perhaps, just me — a Grinch in Who-ville). If it does, you may be more in agreement with castle-cook Constanza’s gruff pronunciation: “Inferno!”

The irritating jubilation reaches a high when Lotty declares that she and Rose, before they have even truly forged their own friendship, must send for their husbands to join them — because it just wouldn’t be heaven without a bossy lawyer and a two-faced writer around. April’s ladies, ladies and gentlemen, are not Thelma and Louise, and all signs begin to point toward a Jane Austen ending.

The Cellar’s Enchanted April set is mostly functional. The playing ground is at times in the first act too symmetrical, causing a lack of depth. The placement of a bench downstage attempts to add a third dimension, but it’s mostly just an eyesore. The lovely train-ride sequence, in which Lotty and Rose so wonderfully feign the jiggling of railroad travel, is lost to those seated on stage right and left, as the tall wingbacks obstruct the view.

If your expectations for April do not exceed that of a blippy dramedy with mostly non-dynamic characters (it’s well done, for being that), then go forth and theater. Entertainment of this kind brings joy to the hearts of people like my grandma — people who desire theater as a distraction from the inundation of heartbreak and drama the nightly news brings. (Then again, can’t you get that from a Little House rerun?) More thought-provoking (more “art” than “entertainment,” in short), I think, would have been a modern re-interpretation of this work. But then, what’s a lady doing thinking anyway? 


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