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Enchanted April

- Backstage with the Playwrights

By Matthew Barber
From the Novel by Elizabeth Von Arnim

Directed by Michael Wilson

Producers: Jeffrey Richards, Richard Gross/Ellen Berman,
Raymond J. & Pearl Berman Greenwald, Irving Welzer,
Libby Adler Mages/Mari Glick, Howard R. Berlin, Jerry Frankel, Terry E. Shnuck, and Frederic B. Vogel

Scenic Design, Tony Straiges
Costume Design, Jess Goldstein
Lighting Design, Rui Rita
Original Music and Sound, John Gromada
Production Manager, Peter Fulbright
General Manager, Laura Heller
Production Stage Manager, Katherine Lee Boyer

Press Representative, Jeffrey Richards Associates

Belasco Theatre
111 West 44th Street

Performed by: Elizabeth Ashley, Jayne Atkinson, Patricia Conolly, Michael Cumpsty, Dagmara Dominczyk, Daniel Gerroll,
Michael Hayden, and Molly Ringwald

May 14, 2003

Elizabeth Ashley
Photo by Carol Rosegg

Enchanted April is a play about the power of nature and nurture. Two women, so unhappily married, so degraded, so self-righteous, find each other and then escape to Italy, to an advertised castle, because the artistic, young property owner has placed an advertisement. Along with these two not-so-old escapees, are an elderly dowager and a young seductress. Husbands appear, and there is hilarity and the element of timing and slapstick that enervates the bucolic setting of Italy, after the stark British interiors, set with two antique, mahogany tables and chairs, that become two households, a ladies Club library, and a train.

Elizabeth Ashley, as the stuffy widow, Mrs. Graves, in a routinized and dogmatic lifestyle, is able to shift personality and passion from daily details to relaxing tea parties, with a handsome young landlord. Ms. Ashley has unusual stage presence and charisma that transcend the plot and period setting. Her larger than life hats and dresses are perfectly suited to the dull grayness of London and the bright pastels of Italy. Ms. Ashley made her Broadway debut in 1959, and she is an actors' actor. Jayne Atkinson, as the tormented and burned-out wife, Lotty Wilton, is brilliant, as she morphs from passive to passionate. She finds an advertisement in a newspaper, which will enable her to escape a smothering, stultifying marriage, in which she has been ordered to just say, "Marvelous!" every time she is asked a question. She actually convinces a near stranger, Molly Ringwald, as Rose Arnott, to come along. Ms. Ringwald has the same ability to switch personas from religious and neglected wife to a flowering nymph in the garden.

In fact, it is just this garden, Act II, in Mezzago, on the Italian coast, that serves to nurture the ingrained nature of the lonely, lost souls, all of whom blossom amidst the wisteria and a list of Latin-named roses and various flowers and shrubs. Michael Cumpsty, as Mellersh Wilton, who is incongruously invited by his wife to join the one-month Italian sojourn, finds his formerly stiff Lotty so hungry for love that they rush to her room. There is a riotous après-shower scene, involving Mellersh and the ladies. Daniel Gerroll, as Frederick Arnott, who had been an assumed playboy, actually appears in Italy, seeking Lady Caroline Bramble, one of the four women originally slated for this just-women adventure. Mr. Gerroll has tremendous dynamism and played this rogue quite well. Dagmara Dominczyk is a beautiful actress and looked like a vamp on a lounge chair, until she was jilted by a playboy husband, seduced by his own wife.

Michael Hayden was a wonderful, young landlord, who sparked the stage with style and magnetism, and Patricia Conolly as the maid, Costanza, spoke in flawless Italian (which I have studied), good accent, and had superior technique in mime and body language to carry off a most difficult role.

Kudos to Tony Straiges and Rui Rita for sets and lighting that were most exceptional. The concept of the dual homes, which allowed for one complicated scene in Act I, as both wives simultaneously informed their husbands of their upcoming Italian escape, was followed by the sumptuous Italian Villa, with the garden and sensual lighting that showcased the Italian spirit, as contrasted to the English freeze. This was a most satisfying matinee, with an audience of almost all ladies, on a Broadway, free-spirited adventure, in the Belasco Villa. Run to get a ticket, while this cast is intact.

My guest, Ele Franklin, says, "My answer to any situation will be 'Marvelous!' as was this play. I feel I was transported back to a time, when I wish I could have lived." (1922)

Dagmara Dominczyk, Patricia Conolly, Daniel Geroll
Photo by Carol Rosegg

Michael Cumpsty, Michael Hayden
Photo by Carol Rosegg

Molly Ringwald, Jayne Atkinson
Photo by Carol Rosegg

Molly Ringwald
Photo by Carol Rosegg

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at