by Benjamin Paley
On the evening of March, 21 2013, along with other members of the college community, I saw a production of Enchanted April. Upon entering the small theater, I immediately felt a connection with the simple, yet beautiful, proscenium stage that stood in front of me. On the stage, there were two tables juxtaposed to each other – each with two chairs and a coat rack -, and a bench in the middle of the stage. While sitting waiting for the performance to begin, I wasn’t sure what I was expecting from the performance. I usually like to see plays that are performed by experienced actors; so I wasn’t too excited about the play. At approximately eight o’clock, the director got on the stage and explained to the audience what we were about to see. After reminding us that cell phone use was prohibited in the theater, a flash of lightening and the sound of thunder sent us into the world of the play.
The flash of lighting that sent the director off of the stage sent the audience into the world of the play. Enchanted April is a domestic play that centers on the lives of four women who are not happy with their married lives. In order to escape their lives for a while, the ladies decide to travel to Italy to stay at a castle known as San Salvatore. As a member of the audience, I could tell the difference between the attitude of the ladies lives in act one, verses their attitudes in act two. In act one, the ladies are more gloom – even Lotty acts different in act two -, while in act two, the ladies are more upfront about their feelings. One example of this is that Rose is more serious in acts one – she initially turns down the idea to go to Italy, insisting that she is alright -, but as act two progress, one can see the change of mood in Rose. There is one point in act two where we see Rose laugh.
Another extreme example of change in the attitude of the characters is with Mrs. Graves – who initially is very stubborn in her ways, and insistent that things happen in a certain order. In the first act, Mrs. Graves tells Lotty and Rose at their first meeting that she likes to have her meals at specific times of the day and does not enjoy modern culture. Once Mrs. Graves arrives at San Salvatore, her attitude begins to change – especially when she meets Mr. Wilding who gives her some nuts, which Mrs. Graves really enjoys.
On a more technical level, the difference between act one and act two can also be seen in the way the lights and sounds are used. In act one, more dark lights are used and the sound of rain can constantly be heard in the back. In act two, on the other hand, vivacious colors are used and the sound of birds and calm winds can be heard in the back. The scenery of act one also differs from the scenery of act two. The scenery of act one is very basic and dark, while the scenery of act two is much more lively and big.
The structure of Enchanted April is episodic. The entire issue happens during the play. Before the story begins, the characters do not know each other, and they definitely do not know about San Salvatore. Since the castle is introduced early on in the play, we, as an audience, know that this will be at the center of the play. The entire structure of Enchanted April focusses on one question: Will the ladies have an enjoyable time at San Salvatore? Definitely, by the end of the play, each of the four main ladies has something to enjoy about the castle. Even though Lady Caroline is cheated on by Fredrick, she finds enjoyment in walking through the garden with Mr. Wilding, enjoying the flowers.
The costumes used in the performance also tell an important aspect of the story. In act on, the costumes used are very serious, while in act two the costumes are more free and alive. This point goes back to the idea that the director wants the audience to see the difference in the ladies between act one and act two.
Putting all of this together, I came to the conclusion that the director used heightened realism as her directorial style. Although most of the play uses realism, such as the tea coming out of the tea pot, there are some moments in the play where the director uses a “certain creative license.” An example would be the sound of the piano. In a play where naturalism is used, the audience would have to see the piano and not just hear it. Another example is the sounds heard throughout the play, such as the birds. If the play were to use naturalism, then we, as the audience, would have to see real birds on the stage making noise.
In the end, the director, through the use of costumes, lighting and sound, and location, definitely got her message across to the audience. The use of lighting definitely left the audience members thinking about how Lonely and miserable these ladies must be. It also left the audience with the impression that something important was going to happen, because every time the ladies added another member to their group, the sound of thunder is heard. Something important does happen at the end of the play that has an effect on all four ladies in the group.
Seeing Enchanted April was definitely worth my while. It was enjoyable; although I think the brief nudity served absolutely no purpose to the spine and therefore was not needed in the play. Other than that, I had a few laughs and even almost cried during the performance. The director’s use of style and other elements of theatre made the performance more meaningful to me and possibly the entire audience. After the play, some of my fellow classmates hung out with me and discussed what they thought of the performance. I definitely recommend Enchanted April to any student who would enjoy a fun night at the theater. Although in the beginning I thought I was going to be disappointed by the play because it was a school play, I was, to my amazement, very impressed with the actors, and those who worked back stage. My prediction was wrong, and I hope to see more school productions in the future because not only are they cheaper than regular theater, but, in many ways, are better.