March 24 2010 12:00 AM

Strong cast brings comedy to life at Riverwalk Theatre



At first glance, “Enchanted April” at Riverwalk Theatre appears to be nothing more than a dullish live theater version of “Masterpiece Theater,” complete with a matched pair of dowdy British matrons and their insufferably boring husbands.

Then, Emily Aslakson takes over the stage in the central role of Lotty and transforms an unlikable stodgy and stuffy character into a thoughtful woman of an oppressive era whom we find ourselves genuinely caring about.

Joseph Baumann, in the role of her hus band, Mellersh Wilton, helps immensely with this transformation.

Was there ever a more dense and unaware husband? Perhaps the blasé husband of the other major female character: Ian Griffin plays the detached and indifferent Frederick Arnott, who seems not to care about his wife at all.

When Lotty meets Rose Arnott (Veronica Gracia-Wing), a plot is hatched to rent a villa, nay, a castle in the Mediterranean, for these two women (and two more) to get away from
the damp and thunderous rains of April in England, as well as their
husbands. It takes all of Act One to put this plan into motion.

Director Mary Job divides up Act One into snapshot scenes that briskly advance the action of the play. One scene, in which each of the wives informs her husband of their plans, is played in tandem — with dialogue bouncing back and forth between each couple on opposite sides of the stage representing two separate places; in the final scene of the first act, Lotty and Rose enact, humorously, the fearful drama of experiencing an ancient rattling railroad train rumbling through dark tunnels.

Act Two begins with a bang and a flour ish, as a colorful costumed running crew arrives to turn the entire dreary blackand-white set completely around and to suddenly and immediately transform it into a luxurious Italianate castle. They’re led by the hand-clapping Italianspeaking Constanza, the chief cook and castle-keeper (played with great comic charm by Gloria Vivalda).

Lotty and Rose are equally changed by this change of climate. They are joined in Act Two by their two castle housemates, the saucy Lady Caroline Bramble (Abby Murphy), and the elderly Mrs. Graves (Sandy Thomasson).

Is it the climate alone or the absence of men that changes these women? The plot gets complicated in Act Two. How and why events resolve is open to interpretation.

“Enchanted April” takes place in 1922, and yet the theme of women finding their voices and becoming equal partners with men resonates in 2010.

’Enchanted April’

p.m. Thursday, March 25, 8 p.m. Friday, March 26 and Saturday, March
27; 2 p.m. Sunday, March 28 Riverwalk Theatre, 228 Museum Dr. $10/$14
adults, $8/$12 students and seniors (517) 482-5700