BCP to present ‘Enchanted April,’ opening April 2
Four women come together to share the cost of a vacation in an Italian villa. The different personalities lead to inevitable conflicts. No, it’s not “The Real Housewives of Genoa.” It’s Beaumont Community Players’ latest production, “Enchanted April,” which opens April 2.
“It’s one of the sweetest plays I’ve ever read,” director Robert Fong said. “Every character has some sort of issue, but through interacting with each other, (by) the end of play they’ve all been redeemed in some way.”
While there are dramatic moments and conflicts to be resolved, Fong said the play is first and foremost a comedy, which comes from the reality of the situations.
Fong said “Enchanted April” is a perfect time for people to return to the theater after COVID as its themes deal with loss and reclaiming one’s life. It is set in post-World War I England and a million men have been lost.
“It really is, I think, a little bit about women in post-Great War era, stepping out and being more assertive,” Fong said. “Their husbands want to go to Italy with them, and they say, no, we’re going without you. At the time, that was probably quite a novel idea.”
Elizabeth von Arnim, who wrote the book on which Matthew Barber based his play, took a one-month villa vacation in 1922 and the book followed.
“This is considered her most ebullient book,” Fong said. “She had a daughter that was going to school in Germany and got caught there due to machinations of the war. They weren’t able to get her out and she died of influenza. So, von Arnim went through definite trauma — I think she was still kind of going through the healing process herself.”
“Enchanted April” is a women-centric play, Fong said, with the men being the supporting characters. Lottie Wilton (Rachel Cain) and Rose Arnott (Mary Hooker) get together first and interview two other women. Mrs. Graves (Charlene Hudgins) is a cantankerous elderly woman who wants things done her way.
“As written, she is one of the most amusing parts I’ve ever seen,” Fong said. “And we have a wonderful actress doing this character, it’s a marriage made in heaven. I think audiences are going to really enjoy her.”
Hudgins said that while Mrs. Graves is imperious and authoritarian, the character, like all the characters in the play, goes through a transformation. However, Mrs. Graves is antagonistic.
“At least that’s how I appear at the beginning and through a good part of the middle of the play — but still waters run deep and there’s more going on than we initially think in my head and in my heart,” Hudgins said.
Hooker said her character, Rose, is religious and very uniform.
Lottie helps Rose get out of her comfort zone, because (she) would be considered a bit uptight and she doesn’t adapt very easily,” Hooker said. “She has her schedule, and she sticks to it.
Andrea Garcia as Caroline Bramble, James Jackson as Mellersh Wilton, Corey Winkler as Frederick Arnott, Donny Avery as Antony Wilding and Victoria LeBlanc as Constanza round out the ensemble.
Barber adapted the play in 2003 and there had already been a movie in 1991.
“I didn’t know about the play, so I went looking for it, found it, ordered it, read it and was blown away with how well written it was,” Fong said. “I think the cutting in the play is better than the movie. And no one had done it. It’s hard to find something this good that has not been done in the area. I think a lot of women’s groups especially will really enjoy getting together and coming to see the show.
“How many plays are there with four main characters who are women? Not very many. And it’s written by a woman, too, so it’s unusual.”
In the same way that the women are coming to terms with the upheaval of war, we are dealing with coming out of the pandemic, Fong said.
“It is easy to wonder about the meaning of life and whether we’ll all, one day, feel like we once did,” he said. “The truth of the matter is we’ll never feel exactly how we felt before, but we have to move on in some way. And I think that many people will find ‘Enchanted April’ to be a play that will, for at least a time, help them to see things in a different light.”
Mainly, Hudgins said, the play is a total delight.
“It’s almost as if we’re willing magic to happen on stage,” she said. “The name is ‘Enchanted April.’ It’s April. Come get enchanted.”
Showtimes for “Enchanted April” are April 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16 and 17 at 7:30 p.m., and April 9 at 2 p.m.
BCP is located at 4155 Laurel Ave. in Beaumont. For tickets, visit http://www.beaumontstages.com.
This story first ran in the March 25, 2022, Art of Living section of The Beaumont Enterprise.