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“Enchanted April” Delightful at Shakespeare Theatre of NJ

By Karen Nowosad


originally published: 06/18/2022

“Enchanted April” Delightful at Shakespeare Theatre of NJ

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey celebrated a very special season opening on Saturday, June 11 with Matthew Barber’s play Enchanted April. It was the first time in two years they have opened a new season. It is also significant because the Madison based theater group also celebrates their 60th Year Anniversary this season.

Artistic Director Bonnie Monte received a large round of applause and cheers as she opened the evening. She said that mounting this show was the most difficult one she has ever done. However, she added the following in her Director’s Notes in the program: “It’s almost as though the play was waiting to be produced at the exact, perfect moments in time in which it could shine most brilliantly, and have the most profound effect.” Ms. Monte also directs this production which is adapted from the novel by Elizabeth Von Arnim.

The challenges that Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey has overcome the past few years have been enormous. But the results on stage are something every theater lover will be able to embrace and enjoy. Enchanted April is a special gift to theater goers. It has a story that emotionally ties an era of history to our current time. This is done through the superb acting of a well directed cast and a heartwarming tale that unfolds with lots of moments of laughter.

Setting Background

Set in 1922, Enchanted April takes place in England and Italy.



 
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The time of the setting is important because 1922 was several years after the end of World War I. Additionally, there is a tie-in to our current time because like the past few years with CoVid, the Flu Epidemic of 1918 took a toll. There are mentions in the play of men who did not return from the War and how many widows are around. But a child’s death is also mentioned. So the characters represent people who are struggling with both. They are tying to look for new ways to go in their lives and that comes through brilliantly in Enchanted April.

Setting Place: England

Act 1 is set in England where it appears to be raining constantly. Dark colors prevail on the sets as they appear to reflect the feelings of the players. Lotty Wilton needs a break from the continuous rain and more. She has a husband but one who is not very exciting so her life is in need of a boost. Played by Monette Magrath, Lotty is a most spirited woman. Determined to do something about the dreariness in her life, Lotty comes across an advertisement in the newspaper for a rental of a castle in Italy.

Coincidentally, Lotty notices another woman, Rose Arnott, reading the same advertisement. Although the two have seen each other at their Women’s Club, they are not yet friends. Rose’s husband, a writer, goes out often but without Rose. Their marriage has not been a happy one for over four years. Carey Von Driest plays Rose as a woman who has suffered a profound personal loss in her life. It is a very difficult one to overcome. Her struggles feel very real.

When Lotty and Rose decide to take the rental, they want to include two more women to split the expenses. Their two companions are Caroline Bramble and Mrs. Graves. Samantha Bruce plays the beautiful but somewhat secretive Caroline and Elizabeth Shepherd plays the outspoken Mrs. Graves, a widow.

After Lotty and Rose clear their plans as with their somewhat surprised husbands, they are off to Italy for a month of relaxation, good weather, and a new outlook on life.

Setting Place: Italy

The second act begins as the women arrive in Italy at the scenic castle. The grounds hold many beautiful flowers including Wisteria which appears to be a crowd favorite. The plumbing is old containing the makings of a very comical scene later in this act.

Anthony Wilding owns the estate and he stops by to check in on his guests. Aaron McDaniel plays his part graciously as he feels a connection to Rose. After he learns she is not a widow, he changes his scope with fine results.

Anthony is like a son to Costanza who cooks and keeps the place running in his absence. Celeste Ciulla gives a wonderfully humous portrayal of the character who provides many moments of laughter. Lotty invites her husband, Mellersh Wilton, to come for a visit. Greg Jackson comes through with one of the funniest scenes in the show dealing with that aging plumbing mentioned earlier. Anthony Marble plays Frederick Arnott whose character displays one of the most dramatic changes for the better of all.

The time this group spends in Italy results in many personal situations being resolved and reset for a new phase of life. The ability to refocus one’s life is something that can occur and this play gives rise to that notion.



 
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Is it enchantment that guides these changes like the title implies? Who knows? But one thing is for sure: you are guaranteed to have a most enjoyable experience seeing this play.

Tickets for Enchanted April

The Theatre offers various cost-saving opportunities, including $15 student rush tickets, which are available 30 minutes prior to each performance, with a valid student ID, and a limited number of Pay What You Can tickets for every performance on a first-come, first-serve basis.

STNJ also has a $30 Under 30 ticket option, which offers $30 tickets for patrons aged 30 and under, with valid ID. Other discounts are available including a 10% discount for Bank of America customers and employees, members of Thirteen, and AAA members. For tickets, patrons can call the Box Office at 973-408-5600 or visit ShakespeareNJ.org.

Special Performances for Enchanted April

The Symposium Series performances offer a post-show discussion with the cast and artistic staff. For Enchanted April, Symposium performances will be on Tuesday, June 14 at 7:30 PM, Saturday, June 18 at 2:00 PM, and Saturday, June 25 at 2:00 PM. This series is a part of the regular ticket price. 

The Know-the-Show pre-show talks are offered free of cost with the purchase of a performance ticket. Prior to the Thursday, June 16th performance, at 7:00 PM, an STNJ artist will conduct a pre-show talk and Q&A for interested patrons. The performance that night follows at 8:00 PM.

Closed-Caption performance for Enchanted April will be on Thursday, June 16th at 8:00 PM. The Audio-Described performance will be on Thursday, June 23 at 8:00 PM. For more information, please contact the Box Office.

The production runs until June 26.

PHOTO: A scene from Enchanted April, now playing at Shakespeare Theatre of NJ – shown here (l. to r.) Carey Van Driest, Monette Magrath, and Samantha Bruce – Photo by Daniel Radar


Let's Go to the Theater helps people learn more about about live theater and develop appreciation for this art form. Karen M. Nowosad is the founder of the site. The enjoyment Karen gets from going to the theater is something she wants to share with others.





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