What begins as a tightly coiled spring bursts out into fun, laughter and love in the ECHO Players production of Enchanted April.
Opening tonight at the Village Theatre in Qualicum Beach (110 West 2nd Ave.), Enchanted April tells the story of two British women unhappy in their marriages who become unlikely friends as they drum up the nerve to take a vacation together.
Lotty Wilton and Rose Arnott, played by Heather Tillmar and Bella Meerveld, are joined by Lady Caroline Bramble (Adrienne Yee) and Mrs. Graves (Lesley McVey) so that they can afford to rent what they are told is a beautiful Italian castle covered in wisteria, escaping the dreary wet of England for a sunny April.
Tillmar and Meerveld play well off each other, with Tillmar’s twinkling smile working well for her character, who’s determined to be happy, and sees just how to make it so. Meerveld does well as a proper, God-fearing Brit who declares she’s “most happy” with great severity.
We see into the marriage of these two women, with Scott Murray doing a delightful job of playing Mallesh Wilton, the sort of man of the house who’s both childlike (needing his wife to tie his tie, pick up his paper and cook for him) and yet must be in charge of everything.
Caz Matute plays Frederirck Arnott, who’s money-making activities are far too scandalous for the highly religious Rose, but their rift goes deeper than that as we see later in the play.
About half the play is taken up in Lotty and Rose securing their fellow travellers (McVey does a magnificently demanding and set-in-her-ways widow, while Yee looks and sounds the part of a jazz-loving, gin-drinking “modern”), and the audience is quite ready to leave England for Italia. The long start, however, is effective in making the audience as excited for the castle as the characters are, and being to doubt its much-discussed beauty just as they do.
The second half of the play sees great additions in Italian maid Costanza (played to hilarious effect, and all in Italian, by Linda Bezooyen) and the dapper owner of the castle, Antony Wilding (played to charming effect by Jonathon Hamilton).
While the castle itself is no doubt a character in this play, it’s perhaps Lotty’s infectious determination to be happy that has the greatest effect on the characters. Enchanted April succeeds in bursting from its shell with laughter, joy and love.
The play runs until Oct. 28. For info on tickets, go to www.echoplayers.ca/tickets.php.