NORWAY — It’s been raining in London, as usual; but in Italy, there’s a castle with wisteria and sunlight. And it can be rented for the entire month of April, 1922.
For four very different ladies, that sounds like a perfect escape from the dreary English weather and restlessness in their marriages and lives.
The opportunity soon becomes an “Enchanted April,” and the stage of the Norway Grange glows with Mediterranean warmth.
This gem of a romantic comedy production by the Oxford Hills Music and Performing Arts Association is a low-key charmer. It comes alive with fine acting and a beautiful set.
The eight-member cast has plenty of stage experience, and the actors deliver some delightful performances.
The play earned a Tony nomination for best stage play on Broadway in 2003. It was adapted for stage by Matthew Barber from the 1922 novel by Elizabeth von Arnim, which became movies in 1935 and 1992.
This cast works together perfectly under the direction of Linda Sturdivant, who has guided many OHMPAA successes. She returns to direct this show after working on Biddeford City Theater productions.
Lotty Wilton and Rose Arnott are the wives of reasonably successful but unexciting men. The women spot the same London Times advertisement for the castle rental, and Lotty’s enthusiasm turns Rose’s reluctance into an agreement to share expenses and secretly set off on an adventurous Italian vacation.
Sara Sturdivant plays Lotty with an optimistic enthusiasm for life and Corrine Turner portrays a cautious, down-to-earth Rose. Together, they are the catalyst for the castle’s enchantment for everyone who gathers there.
Kathy Davis appears as Mrs. Graves, a dowager whose caustic exterior yields some valuable lessons to her vacationing companions. Her performance is right on target as her cane swings perilously close when she wants to make a point.
Megan Towle plays Lady Caroline Bramble, the beautiful free-thinker whose position in society has brought little but boredom. Her characterization is excellent.
Alex Davis plays Lotty’s husband, Mellersh Wilton, a self-centered solicitor who also benefits from the enchantment of San Salvatore. He is on the losing end of a battle with an unpredictably explosive bath water heater, and his onstage wardrobe malfunction with a towel is hilarious.
Andy Turner portrays Frederick Arnot, the talented poet husband of Rose. He has much more financial success as a writer of sensational romantic fiction under a pen name, and that leads to an unexpected connection to one of the castle’s occupants late in the show.
Costanza is the Italian housekeeper at the castle. She is played with fine humor and skill by Rebecca Michals Rinaldi. Costanza speaks only Italian throughout the play, and her stubborn exchanges with Mrs. Graves are great fun.
Ed Baldridge plays the castle’s owner, Antony Wilding. His presence and interaction with each of the castle’s visitors becomes a critical influence. He tells them of a walking stick left stuck into the ground in the gardens, where it sprouts into an acacia tree.
The first act relies on minimal scenery and props as the audience meets the characters and learns their backgrounds. There is good use of back projection to suggest a church and a train ride.
Scenery changes on stage can be awkward in many productions, and this show has many scenes. They are accomplished smoothly in this production.
When Act Two opens, the audience is greeted with the colorful castle patio, and the changing light of the sky is beautiful.
Besides directing, Sturdivant did the set design. Travis Grant was set dresser and also oversaw costume design, which accurately captures the look of the 1920s. Several OHMPAA members carried out the fine work on set construction and costume production.
“Enchanted April” is a wonderful balance of talented actors, a delicious script and a gorgeous set — and it is served at a comfortable leisurely pace.
WHAT: “Enchanted April”
WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 15-17, and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 18
WHERE: Norway Grange
TICKETS: Call Books N Things in Norway, 739-6200