Monday, April 23, 2007

A Little Slice of Heaven - "Enchanted April" at Bus Barn Stage Company

How is your April going? Does it need a little magic? Yes, you say? Then you must get over to the Bus Barn Stage Company before May 5th and see Matthew Barber’s, Enchanted April. This production directed by the multi-talented, Shannon Stowe makes for an absolutely enjoyable night of theatre. Barber’s adaptation of the novel by Elizabeth Von Arnim is surprisingly well written. How often does a novel, turned into a movie, then finally a play, get nominated for a Tony Award as Best Play (2003)?

Barber’s script strikes a perfect balance between humor, sentiment and plot. Four women, with very different personalities and problems, sneak off on a holiday to an Italian villa in order to get away from men and their pasts. But when, Lottie Wilson, played wonderfully by Laura Jane Bailey, decides that she misses her husband and that she must send for him, and come clean on the scheme, the conflict and comedy burst forth as husbands and wives, a landlord, and a jilted lover are forced to live together in what Lottie keeps reminding us is supposed to be “paradiso.”

One of the funniest moments on stage involving the character of Mellersh, Lottie’s husband, and a bath towel, had me and nearly every audience member in absolute stitches. John Romano, who plays the role, displays an ability with physical comedy as good as anything I’ve ever seen. In fact, every actor in this production is absolutely wonderful. Laura Jane Bailey is funny, feisty and touching in the role of Lottie Wilton. Her scenes with Sally Clawson, who plays Rose Arnott, are priceless. Ms Clawson is perfect as the long suffering, Rose, who so wants to bust out but just can't seem to do it. Gemma Beddo Barozzi is perfect as the beautiful socialite Lady Caroline Bramble. The character requires an actress with outstanding acting ability and striking beauty. Ms. Barozzi fits the bill in both areas. Ken Boswell captures the complexity of his character Frederick Arnott with a multi-layered portrayal. Jeanie Forte provides many laughs as the Italian housekeeper Costanza. She speaks only Italian throughout the entire show both with her voice and her body. It was just delightful to see. William J. Brown III as Antony Wilding, the owner of the villa, plays his character with real charm. He seems so completely wonderful and selfless, until we see his disappointment when he finds out that his guests aren't widows. I found it hilarious to see his disappointment creep out. The most riveting performance of the show is given by Beverley Griffith who plays Mrs. Graves. Her physicality, voice, and her character's point of view and journey, were so full and rich that I left the theater talking about it for hours. I hope we see her again soon.

Something that really struck me was how each of the actors really seemed to grasp that wonderful conflict between propriety and desire that makes British comedy so enjoyable. Director Stowe has orchestrated something truly magical in Los Altos - this production is one of the best I’ve seen this year. Get over to the Bus Barn before May 5th for a little taste of heaven.

Enchanted April by Matthew Barber. From the novel by Elizabeth Von Arnim.

Directed by Shannon Stowe.

Scenic Design by Ron Gasparinetti.
Costume Design by Gloria Grandy.
Lighting Design by Brendan Bartholemew.
Sound by Rich Miller.
Properties/Production by Nichole Y. Hamiltion.
Stage Manager is Nancy Park.
Master Carpenter is Charles McKeithan.
Assistant Stage Manager is S. Conner.
Cast: Laura Jane Bailey, Gemma Barozzi, Ken Boswell, William Brown, Sally Clawson, Jeanie Forte, Beverly Griffith, John Romano

Theatre: Bus Barn Stage Company, 97 Hillview Avenue, Los Altos, CA
Through May 5, 2007

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