Enchanted April
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Eric Chazankin

You are really in for an enchanted evening at Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma when you see their current production, Enchanted April by Matthew Barber. It is based on the novel by Elizabeth von Arnim, which was written four years after WWI, where the lives of over one million British men ended. It was a high point in English literature as is the case after most wars, giving rise to authors such as D.H. Lawrence, Katherine Mansfield, E.M. Forster and H.G. Wells, many of which Arnim knew.

It was a time of questioning relationships between men and women as D.H. Lawrence did in Women in Love and Arnim did in much of her work. It was a time when many of the women were war widows and those that still had husbands, began to redefine their previously subservient roles.

This is where Barber’s play takes off. Two married women meet at their women’s club in England. The very outgoing Lotty Wilton (Molly Noble) does most of the talking. The very uptight Rose Arnott (Danielle Cain) listens grudgingly, but as the subject turns to the possibility of leaving rainy England for a two-week holiday to the coast of sunny Italy, she becomes more interested, especially when Lotty suggests that they go without their husbands.

But this is not a negative anti-man play. On the contrary: “Part of the ‘enchantment’ has come from the fact that the play itself is devoid of cynicism, filled with hope and acceptance,” says director Elizabeth Craven. “Elizabeth von Arnim’s book and Mathew Barber’s dramatic adaptation both successfully embrace the reality of the dark side of human existence, without ever falling victim to it. The magical villa at San Salvatore presents respite from the devastation of war, the pain of loss and regret, and an answer to our struggle for meaning in life. Never simplistic in its portrait of hope, the play presents to us the very real possibility that life will sprout anew even from a seemingly desolate landscape.”

Indeed, this is the beauty of this story with its uplifting comic tone, which adds to the depth of each character. They all become capable of laughing at themselves as a celebration of life, and the humorous opposition of the sexes gives way to a deeper appreciation that bringing opposites together breeds vitality in the enchanted garden of life.

For tickets or more information call (707) 763-8920 or visit www.cinnabartheater.org.

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