With its enticing characters and an engaging plot, Enchanted April lives up to its name. The tale begins in 1922 in dreary England, where a frumpy Lotty Wilton (Cary Anne Spear) finds herself dissatisfied with her tyrannical husband and her humdrum existence. She finds escape through an ad in the paper -- a rentable castle in Italy. Heart aflame with possibility, she ropes a reluctant fellow churchgoer, Rose (Laura Turnbull), into the vacation scheme. Needing two others to come along to help pay the bills, Lotty and Rose entice the lonely and beautiful "modern" girl, Lady Caroline (Annie Reilly), and a rigid, gray-haired drill sergeant of a woman named Mrs. Graves (Pat Nesbit).
Written by Matthew Barber, based on the novel by Elizabeth von Arnim. Presented through February 13 by Caldwell Theatre Company. 561-241-7432.
The foursome makes an odd party, but the castle suits them. The unfolding of the relationship between these strangers is poignant and moving. When men enter the scene, scandal and betrayal erupt as secrets are told. The play, produced at the Caldwell in its Florida premiere, is naturally witty and poetic. The castle set is breathtakingly believable, and every actor is true-to-life.
Spear is priceless, turning from a flighty victim to a natural and exuberant leader of the group, more glowingly enthusiastic than Pollyanna. Turnbull, whose character Lotty refers to as "the disappointed Madonna," is equally magnificent, evolving from a repressed wife into a blooming young woman ready to accept love. Reilly and Nesbit play character roles, but both show growth, especially Nesbit, skillfully employing body language, speech, and a tight-lipped smile to unveil Mrs. Graves's more vulnerable side. Dennis Creaghan wonderfully portrays Mr. Wilton, a man who appreciates impressionistic art more than his wife. Jacqueline Knapp is funny as the Italian-speaking maid Costanza; Bruce Linser charms as the dapper young landlord who brings out the best in everyone.