“Enchanted April” Glorious at the Shakespeare Theater of NJ


By Karen Nowosad

originally published: 06/18/2022

The Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey celebrated a very special season opener with Matthew Barber’s play on Saturday, June 11th Enchanted April. It was the first time they opened a new season in two years. It’s also significant because the Madison-based theater company is also celebrating its 60th anniversary this season.

Artistic Director Bonnie Monte received a great round of applause and cheers as she opened the evening. She said editing this show was the hardest she’s ever done. However, she added in her director’s notes on the program, “It’s almost as if the play is waiting to be produced at precisely the perfect times when it can shine at its most brilliant and impact at its deepest.” Ms. Monte also directs in this production adapted from the novel by Elizabeth Von Arnim.

The challenges that the Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey has overcome in recent years have been enormous. But the results on stage are something every theater lover can embrace and enjoy. Enchanted Aprill is a special gift for theatergoers. It has a story that emotionally connects an era in history to our present day. This is achieved through superb acting from a well-directed cast and a heartwarming story that unfolds with many moments of laughter.

Set background

Discontinued in 1922, Enchanted April takes place in England and Italy.

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The timing of the hiring is important as 1922 was several years after the end of World War I. Also, there is a connection to our modern day as the 1918 flu epidemic took its toll like the last few years with CoVid. There are mentions in the play of men not returning from the war and how many widows are around. But the death of a child is also mentioned. So the characters represent people who struggle with both. They are eager to seek new avenues in their lives and this shows brilliantly Enchanted April.

Venue: England

Act 1 takes place in England, where it seems to be raining constantly. Dark colors predominate on the sets as they seem to reflect the feelings of the players. Lotty Wilton needs a break from the pouring rain and more. She has a husband, but one who isn’t very exciting, so her life needs a boost. Lotty, played by Monette Magrath, is a very spirited woman. Determined to do something about the dreariness in her life, Lotty comes across an advertisement for renting a castle in Italy in the newspaper.

Coincidentally, Lotty notices another woman, Rose Arnott, reading the same ad. Although the two have seen each other at their women’s club, they are not friends yet. Rose’s husband, a writer, often goes out, but without Rose. Their marriage has not been happy for over four years. Carey Von Driest plays Rose as a woman who has suffered a profound personal loss in her life. It is very difficult to overcome. Their fights feel very real.

When Lotty and Rose decide to pay the rent, they decide to bring in two other women to help split the cost. Her two companions are Caroline Bramble and Mrs. Graves. Samantha Bruce plays the beautiful but somewhat secretive Caroline and Elizabeth Shepherd plays the outspoken Mrs Graves, a widow.

After Lotty and Rose have settled their plans as they did with their somewhat surprised husbands, they head to Italy for a month of relaxation, good weather and a new outlook on life.

Venue: Italy

The second act begins with the women’s arrival in Italy at the picturesque castle. There are many beautiful flowers on the grounds, including wisteria, which seems to be a crowd favorite. The plumbing is old and contains the makings of a very funny scene later in the act.

Anthony Wilding owns the property and he comes by to check on his guests. Aaron McDaniel graciously plays his role as he feels connected to Rose. After learning that she is not a widow, he changes his scope with good results.

Anthony is like a son to Costanza who cooks and runs the place in his absence. Celeste Ciulla gives a wonderfully humorous portrayal of the character that provides plenty of laughs. Lotty invites her husband Mellersh Wilton to visit. Greg Jackson comes away with one of the funniest scenes on the show, involving the aforementioned aging plumbing. Anthony Marble plays Frederick Arnott, whose character exhibits one of the most dramatic changes for the better of all.

The time this group spends in Italy results in many personal situations being resolved and readjusted for a new chapter in life. The ability to recalibrate your life is something that can occur and this game creates that notion.

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Is it enchantment guiding these changes as the title suggests? Who knows? But one thing is for sure: you are guaranteed to have a highly enjoyable experience watching this piece.

Tickets for Enchanted April

The theater offers several money-saving options, including $15 Student Rush tickets, available 30 minutes before each performance with a valid student ID, and a limited number of Pay-What-You-Can tickets for each performance at one First come. First serve basis.

STNJ also has a $30 Under 30 ticket option that offers $30 tickets for guests under the age of 30 with valid ID. Other discounts are available including a 10% discount for Bank of America customers and employees, Thirteen members and AAA members. For tickets, customers can call or visit the box office at 973-408-5600 ShakespeareNJ.org.

special services for Enchanted April

The performances of the Symposium series feature a post-show discussion with the cast and artistic staff. To the Enchanted AprilThe performances of the symposium will be Tuesday, June 14 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, June 18 at 2:00 p.m., and Saturday, June 25 at 2:00 p.m. This series is part of the regular ticket price.

The Know-the-Show preliminary talks are offered free of charge with the purchase of an introduction ticket. Before the performance on Thursday, June 16 at 7:00 p.m., an STNJ artist will conduct a pre-show talk and Q&A for interested visitors. The performance this evening follows at 8:00 p.m.

Closed caption performance for Enchanted April will take place on Thursday 16 June at 20:00. The audio-described performance will take place on Thursday, June 23 at 8:00 p.m. For more information, please contact the cashier.

The production runs until June 26th.

PHOTO: A scene from Enchanted April, now set at the Shakespeare Theater of NJ – Shown here (left to right) Carey Van Driest, Monette Magrath and Samantha Bruce – Photo by Daniel Radar

Let’s Go to the Theater helps people learn more about and appreciate live theater as an art form. Karen M. Nowosad is the founder of the site. Karen wants to share the joy she gets from going to the theater with others.

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