By Chuck Graham, TucsonStage.com
Why shouldn't sunny Tucson be a land of escape and enchantment just like the flowering Italian landscape of “Enchanted April,” now playing with a charming warmth on the eastside at Live Theatre Workshop.
Leslie J. Miller as director has given Matthew Barber's adaptation of Elizabeth von Arnim's novel a reassuring confidence in the power of Spring. It's the open living, the easy acceptance of unconventional lifestyles, and a delight in being enjoyed for being oneself that makes the difference.
After all, that's pretty much the attitude many Tucsonans enjoy year-around, as well.
Carley Elizabeth Preston as Lotty, Avis Judd as Rose, Lucile Petty as Caroline and Peg Peterson as Mrs. Graves play the four London women who find themselves transformed by leaving the sooty rain of their city sidewalks to enjoy vigorously flowering wisteria that clings to castle walls in Genoa in April in 1922.
Lotty is the dreamer and her pal Rose is not so sure, but is willing to give change a chance, when Lotty insists they break loose (at least for a couple of weeks) from the societal ties and traditions that bind them to their husbands, (respectively) Steve McKee as Mellersh and Brian Wees as Frederick.
Mellersh is the stuffy one, always preferring propriety, while Frederick is a more cosmopolitan type.
Due to the economics of the times, Lotty and Rose must seek the company of two strangers to share expenses. These are Caroline the modern girl, bored with the new cultural freedom to kiss all the men she likes, and the overbearing dowager Mrs. Graves determined to maintain all the privileges of British Empire.
To set this up, the first act is filled with bleak colors and somber settings. The men are overbearing and the women are frustrated. That's when Lotty sees an ad for rooms to rent in an Italian castle covered in wisteria.
She and Rose run their own ad for two more ladies to share expenses in their dream vacation, selecting Caroline and Mrs. Graves.
That's about when the house lights come up for intermission. When they go down again, everything is cheerful and thoroughly Italian, even the castle's keeper, Costanza (played with elan by Toni Press-Coffman) who speaks no English. Let the transformation begin.
Each of the British ladies becomes a new flower, blossoming in her own way. The delight is in seeing how they do it. Miller has directed these transformations to occur slowly and gracefully – except for Lotty, who leaps into the lifestyle, giving herself completely to it.
Wrapping up everyone's happy ending finds the two husbands popping up in the same castle toward the end of Act Two, as well as the return of the castle's owner, the good-natured Englishman Antony Wilding, played by Nowell Kral.
“Enchanted April” continues through May 9, with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m., plus a final Thursday show May 7 at 7:30 p.m. always at Live Theatre Workshop, 5317 E. Speedway Blvd.
General admission is $20, with discounts available. For details and reservations, 520-327-4242, or visit livetheatreworkshop.org