With summer almost here at last, virtually everybody wants to get away. Enchanted April, now at Little Lake Theatre, keeps with the season and follows the warm-weather respite of four vastly different society ladies in postwar England. Based on Elizabeth von Arnim’s 1922 novel, this 2000 adaptation by playwright Matthew Barber preserves the itinerant spirit of the source material, and under director Jena Oberg, a regular behind-the-scenes player at Little Lake, this production hits all the right notes.
At the end of a thunderstorm-plagued winter, eager daydreamer Lotty Wilton (Samantha A. Camp) reads a newspaper notice advertising an Italian castle to be rented during April. Desperate to escape her humdrum life, Lotty ropes the austere and quietly despondent Rose Arnott (Mary Meyer) into her scheme to abandon their absentee husbands for four weeks of adventure. However, to fund the trip, Lotty and Rose must take on two traveling companions: the temperamental Mrs. Graves (Marianne Shaffer), who expects the vacation will run on her schedule, as well as “modern” woman Caroline Bramble (Samantha DeConciliis), who harbors a penchant for dancing and hidden stashes of liquor. As their vacation unfolds, the women must cope with one another’s conflicting personalities, culminating in both hilarious and heartfelt results.
The four lead actresses are consistently on point, and with a strong cast of supporting players — Johnna A. Pro’s beleaguered estate cook Costanza provides a healthy dose of comedy relief — there isn’t a weak performance in the house. Likewise, TJ Firneno’s superb production design effectively contrasts the women’s drab London homes with the beautifully ornate and colorful castle in Genoa.
Before their month among wisteria and sunshine is over, these prim yet mismatched women celebrate, bicker, reconcile and ultimately discover everything their narrow lives had been missing. Romance ensues and broken hearts mend, and while the tidy outcome seems preordained from the earliest scenes, Enchanted April offers a bewitching dose of escapist joy. This is a charming production too sweet to resist.