TALKIN' BROADWAY REVIEW
By Stephanie Hainsfurther
Romance and Laughs Grace Enchanted April
The before-and-after party on opening night of Enchanted April was a real curtain warmer, previewing the fun we would have during this season opener for Mother Road Theatre Company. Who wouldn’t want the stage set for an Italian getaway, eminently solvable problems, love and laughter?
The husbands, that’s who. Lotty Wilton (Jen Stephenson) and Rose Arnott (Catherine Haun) need a break, and Lotty for one is determined to get it for them, at a rented castle in Mezzago. She has to push her friend Rose up a big hill, metaphorically speaking, but Lotty succeeds.
Convincing the husbands (Brennan Foster and Clifton Chadwick) that their wives need a solo vacation is another matter. Each woman breaks the news in her own way. The first act is devoted to the story of the budding friendship and the dreary marriages; we clearly see why both ladies need a breather.
Lotty and Rose recruit two upper-class women to join them and share the expenses. Jessica Quindlen as Lady Caroline Bramble, party girl, and Carolyn Wickwire as Mrs. Graves, society doyenne, have their own reasons for leaving town. Both actors are perfection in their roles.
After the rainy English set of Act One is peeled away (literally), the four are shown ensconced in the Mediterranean paradise of Mezzago, waited on by the resident Italian-speaking housekeeper Costanza, hilariously played by Barbara Geary. Lotty is ecstatic, Rose is loosening up, and Lady Carolyn seems tired and very quiet. Mrs. Graves sets herself up as the arbiter of all that is right and proper, in direct opposition to everyone else, especially Costanza. Interactions between the two are outright funny and totally, warmly human.
As husbands and a lover (Mark Hisler as the castle’s owner) show up, complicate things and are dealt with, this play by Matthew Barber (from a popular 1922 novel by Elizabeth Von Armin) becomes a genteel farce but remains focused on the women, whom we learn to love. And we are most in love with Stephenson as Lotty, the free soul who drags her friends kicking and screaming into joy. The actor allows us to see a woman whose heart and soul are expansive yet thirsty for experience and personal freedom—and determined to have both in her life. You’ll want to friend her on Facebook.
Further plot points are predictable and satisfying. As in a Shakespearean comedy, complications are knotted up and smoothed away within the bubble of a lush world where love must win out.
Mother Road’s professional, at times boisterous, production is a lovely start to their season, which will include All is Calm, The Christmas Truce of 1914, Chapatti, a two-hander starring local pros Joanne Camp and Peter Kierst, and The Quality of Life with Mother Road Founders Julia Thudium, Vic Browder, Kristín Hansen and Tom Schuch.
Exciting, too, is the new venue at Keshet Center for the Arts, a versatile black-box space with comfortable seats and ample parking. Fans, like the audience on opening night, will be so happy. Check shows for venues, as Keshet is not the only place Mother Road likes to play.
Through October 11, MotherRoad.org, (505) 243-0596