Enchanted April

Based on Elizabeth von Arnim's novel, Mathew Barber's play focuses on the newfound independence of four women in a post-World War I society. Two English women (Charity Parenzini and Nikki Visel) conspire to leave their husbands behind and go on holiday in a rented castle in Italy. In order to afford the vacation, they share the castle with an elderly traditionalist (Kim Morris) and a modernist socialite (Anne Kennedy). The women all deliver thoroughly enjoyable performances; it's difficult not to smile watching Parenzini as she surprises even herself with her own effervescence, and Visel is perfect as her droll and reluctant cohort. For all the dialogue surrounding the women's happiness, the play functions neither as an endorsement of down-with-men feminism nor as approval for traditional gender roles. Enchanted April was made into a film 70 years after the book was published, and the play made it to Broadway 10 years after that; the story's long-lasting appeal is surely due in part to von Arnim's emphasis on finding personal happiness rather than ascribing to any particular political ideology. (Of course, I imagine it's easy to be content when you can take a month off and lounge in an Italian villa.) BRENT ARONOWITZ

Wednesdays, Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m. Starts: Sept. 23. Continues through Oct. 24, 2009

 
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