I have just been to a new theater- well, not a new theater in actuality, but one that I have just discovered. The Citadel Theatre Company, in a lovely , intimate space located in Lake Forest. They have been around for ten years, and now will be one that I will visit on a regular basis. Their current production is “Enchanted April”, a romantic English comedy written by Matthew Barber , based on a novel of the same name by Elizabeth Von Arnim. Surely, a women’s sort of play, as it deals with women who finding their lives and marriages dreary, as dreary as the weather of England, find an advertisement for a lovely villa in Italy, where they can run off for the month of April and restore their lives. Directed by Scott Phelps, he has not only brought the dreariness of their lives to the stage in the words of the script, but has made all of act one sort of like “The Wizard of Oz”- almost black and white and then the second act in vivid living color, which gives the entire play a lift.
The set in the first act is almost non-existent. Some tables and chairs that are moved from area to area against a black drop with very dim lighting, as we meet the two major unhappy wives, Lotty ( the perky and vibrant Jamie Lee Kearns) and Rose ( Kelly Farmer, who truly plays this role as if she is “death warmed over” in the first act, but becomes bright and beautiful in the second act). Both of these women are unhappy with their husbands, who neglect them and take them for granted and as they discuss taking the month of April and running off, they find they will need two more women to cover the costs. They select, Lady Caroline, a socialite of renown ( the very striking Katherine Biskupic) and Mrs. Graves, a widow( charmingly played by Marilyn Baldwin) , much older, who is also in need of a break as well.
What happens at the villa ( a wonderful set by Christine Kneisel, who also handled the props, of which there were many) is a rejuvenation of Rose and Lotty, who are so happy they decide to share the experience by having their husbands come there as well, to bring back the magic of their past. However, there is a twist to this involving one of the husbands and one of the guests, but as in almost all English comedies of this type, there is a “happy ending”, including the landlord of the Villa, Mr. Anthony Wilding ( deftly handled by Matthew Gall) and even for the servant, Costanza ( a charming and comedic performance by the enchanting Rita Simon). The press notes call this play one that reminds you of why you love theater”. While, i would not go that far, it is a charming bit of escapism from our everyday lives and in some ways, maybe, open our eyes to the things that we are “used to” and ignore. Perhaps Phelps has hit the nail on the head by having the first act in a sort of black and white world. Perhaps we do just live each day without the excitement that once filled our lives. Maybe, just maybe, if we open our eyes wider, we also will see the world in living color and begin to appreciate that which we have, our very existence with the one we love and who loves us as well!
One can tell that a theater of this size has limited funds for sets and costumes, but what they brought to the stage worked. The sound (Bob Boxer) and lighting (Erica Burger) along with the costumes ( Lisa Hale) and the music ( composed by Elliott Delman) are the ingredients that make this recipe for a pleasant theatrical experience one that I recommend. My one problem with doing English comedy is the accents- sometimes they get to broad and often the actors and actresses try so hard, they speed up the dialogue making it difficult to hear the words. I would be anxious to hear what you have to say.
“Enchanted April” will continue at Citadel through May 26th with performances as follows:
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
on May 8th and 22nd there will be a Wednesday matinee at 1 p.m.
On Saturdays, May 4th and May 18th at 1 p.m.
To order tickets call 847-735-8554 or visit www.citadeltheatre.org
Free Parking at Lake Forest High School where the theater is located- just south of Route 60/Towneline Road on Waukegan Road.
To see what others say, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to review round-up and click at “Enchanted April”