Sunday, April 13, 2014

REVIEW: RSP's "Enchanted April" is a Truly Enchanting Garden of Delights

Whimsical women, wisteria and heart-warming wonder weave wonderfully in this wistful winter tale following a world war. 

In the gray gloom of a London winter at the end of the World War, a group of four ladies wonder if life will ever be happy again. Struggling in relationships, drudgery and general "blah"-ness, they rent a castle villa in Italy for a spring holiday.

During this Enchanted April the women (all different, but not so different from one another) rediscover what is really important to make life full and satisfying once again.

The clever and charming play by Matthew Barber, based on the novel by Elizabeth von Arnim, continues its run April 12, 18, 19, 25, and 26 at 7:30 p.m. with matinees on April 19 and 26 at 2 p.m. in the Rising Star Productions theater in Kelso's Three Rivers Mall.

The play, first performed in 2000, is rich with introspection, emotion, humor, pathos and joy. I believe you will be deeply touched by this work--especially if you are a woman (my wife really enjoyed it, but so did I).

Blooms and Blossoms

Alexis Bloomfeldt makes her directorial debut and does a great job at the overall conception and brings out some great performances. Blocking was a bit stilted and the actors could have moved around more while in conversation (French curves anyone?), but definitely a delightful first effort.

Stephanie Biwer as Caroline Bramble.
The cast was great though the leading ladies exceeded greatness--each of the four were ideally cast. Before I get to them in detail I must commend young Jeffrey Meyers whom I have seen in several plays now. And I must say he is growing as an actor; this was by far his greatest performance--much of which was delivered in Italian. At times each of the cast must do so, and while Stephanie Biwer seemed to do it best, 92% of young Meyers' dialogue was in the language. What made his performance special were his facial expression and body language that so well translated much of what he said.

Jueanne Meyers, Jane Still, Stephanie Biwer and Laurel Moore were stunning and carried the bulk of the show with aplomb. Each had a great character role and fantastic material to work with (the script is a work of genius), but in lesser hands, no matter how good the material, it could have been flat.

Laurel Moore (L) as Mrs. Graves and Jueanne Meyers as Lotty Wilton.
Meyers, as the bubbly ring-leader/instigator Lotty Wilton, kept up with the energy. You could see the genuine feelings of boredom and stifled adventurer that lay under the character's skin while, at the same time, feeling her resolve at breaking away from a staid and regimented life. How do you play that? I don't know, but she did. "Marvelous."

Still, as Rose Arnott--the forgotten and mousy, but faithful wife of a budding writer, carefully walks her character through a dramatic change. The transformation is remarkable--at first reflected in a demeanor of low self-esteem, reluctant to believe she can be or do more, but breaking into a new dawn of assurance and resolve.

I have seen Biwer in a few plays, too, and she is a really good actress--one of those that throws themselves into the role. I last saw her as a pirate captain, full of buffoonery and broad characterization. Contrast that with this role, played close and mysterious, and you will see that she is a talented and able performer.

I last saw Moore in Pinkalicious--much lighter fare--and she was good, but here she is fantastic. I once had the chance to speak with her at length and she is a very nice lady. I can't say that about her character in this play. She comes across as persnickety, crotchety and fussy; totally unlike her. Her performance really was a great one, so well done that I was tickled (my very favorite performance of the show). She, too, is transformed, but so subtly does it take place that you believe it thoroughly.

Jane Still and Ryan Gaylor as Rose and Frederick Arnott.
The play also featured three men in supporting roles: Phil Olsen as Mellersh Wilton, Ryan Gaylor as Frederick Arnott and Nic Portwood as Antony Wilding. Each performed well. Gaylor especially gave a convincing performance, often relaying much of his feeling on his face.

Tilling and Tending

The set was one of the company's best, yet simple and traditional (flats and a backdrop), but none-the-less beautiful and effective. The lighting, too, (with very few instruments) was done quite well. Costumes, though not period (but, when you come right down to it, the play needs no specific period setting) were nice.

You should really see this play for its excellent and introspective script, the truly enjoyable performances and the delightful feeling you'll have when you leave after a night well spent. You're going to get a lot of bang for your buck, too. Tickets are just $10 general, $5 children (12 and under), $8 seniors (65+). Tickets online here or call 360-749-5212.

All performances are at the Rising Star Theater inside the Three Rivers Mall in Kelso, Washington. (Enter through the food court and head down towards Macy's. On the right, across from Big 5.)

Review by Gregory E. Zschomler
Photos provided

No comments:

Post a Comment