Category Archive for: ‘Flora Lynn Isaacson’

A Breath of Fresh Air–Enchanted April at RVP

Pictured: L to R, Top Row:  Avila Reese as Lotty; Tweed Conrad as Rose. Seated L to R:  Anne Ripley as Mrs. Graves; Kate Fox Marcom as Lady Caroline.  Photo by: Robin Jackson

Ross Valley Players opened the 4th show of their 83rd season Friday, March 15, 2013 with Matthew Barber’s Enchanted April.  It is a wonderful romantic comedy and definitely a must see for all ages.  Mr. Barber’s lively adaptation of a charming novel by Elizabeth von Arnim called The Enchanted April, is set at a villa in Portofino in the province of Genoa, Italy which von Arnim visited during the 1920’s. There was a 1992 film version and Barber’s 2003 play won three Best Play Awards and was nominated for a Tony.

Enchanted April tells the story of four very different women in 1920’s England who leave their damp and rainy surroundings to go on a holiday to a secluded, coastal villa in Italy.  Mrs. Rose Arnott (Tweed Conrad) and Mrs. Lotty Wilton (Avila Reese) who belong to the same church but have never spoken, become acquainted after reading a newspaper advertisement for a villa in Italy that is available for rent.  They find some common ground in that both are struggling to make the best of unhappy marriages.  Having decided to seek other ladies to help share expenses, they reluctantly take on the irritable, Mrs. Graves (Anne Ripley) and the charming Lady Caroline Bramble (Kate Fox Marcom).  These four women come together at the villa and find rejuvenation in the tranquil beauty of their surroundings, rediscovering hope and love.  Enchanted April is beautifully directed by Cris Cassell and produced by Maureen O’Donoghue.

Avila Reese is funny, feisty and touching in the role of Lotty Wilton. Her scenes with Tweed Conrad who plays Rose Arnott are priceless. Tweed is perfect as the long suffering Rose who so wants to bust out but just can’t seem to do it.  Kate Fox Marcom is excellent as the beautiful socialite, Lady Caroline.  This character requires an actress with outstanding acting ability, a dancer’s grace and striking beauty. Ms. Marcom fills the bill in all these areas.  Maxine Sattizahn provides many laughs as the Italian housekeeper, Costanza.   She speaks only Italian throughout the entire show both with her voice and her body. The most riveting performance is given by Anne Ripley as Mrs. Graves. Her physicality, perfect sense of timing, and wonderful voice were so rich and full that she leaves a lasting impression.

Enchanted April not only has great roles for women but the supporting male roles are also interesting. Ross Burger is the handsome and hospitable Antony Wilding, the owner of the charming villa.  Tom Hudgens is Rose’s philandering husband Frederick Arnott who captures the complexity of his character with a multi-layered performance.  Ron Dailey turns in a fine performance as Lotty’s cold and clueless husband, Mellersh.  To Mr. Dailey belongs the funniest scene in the show when he arrives on the terrace dressed only in a bath towel and tries desperately to avoid showing any nudity.

The first act seems dreary but it is supposed to be–all the action takes place in London, in front of a dark curtain with an iron gate at the front and two sets of tables and chairs across the stage as the plot for the trip unfolds.  Thanks to Billie Cox, we hear the rain and the thunder.

When we begin Act II, as the ladies arrive for their adventure, we see an amazing set change. Scenic Designer Malcolm Rodgers’ gorgeous flower laden garden and impressive villa received a rousing applause from the audience.  Lighting Designer Ellen Brooks’ wonderful lighting makes us feel the warmth of the Italian sun and the romantic atmosphere of an Italian evening.

Costume Designer Michael A. Berg’s costumes are a visual feast. In Act I, the apparel is certainly in the 1920’s era, but the clothing is dark and heavy reflecting the feelings after World War I. In Act II, the colors and styles are bright and breezy.

Director Cris Cassell has orchestrated something truly magical in this play. Each actor is so well cast. You have until April 14, 2013 to become enchanted and charmed.

Thursday night performances are at 7:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. All performances are at the Barn Theatre, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross, CA.  For tickets, call 415-456-9555, ext. 1 or go to www.rossvalleyplayers.com.

Coming up next at Ross Valley Players will be All My Sons by Arthur Miller, directed by Caroline Altman, May 17-June 16, 2013.

Flora Lynn Isaacson