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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News
Bruce K. Sevy, right, directs James Judy and Lisa DeMont during rehearsal for "Enchanted April."

For its March slot — especially a March that seems to be roaring about like a lion instead of being a docile lamb — Pioneer Theatre Company is producing Matthew Barber's stage version of Elizabeth Von Arnim's 1922 novel "Enchanted April."

The most recent British film version was a popular "chick flick" 15 years ago.

The first half of the PTC's production is a series of short scenes all set in England, where it's raining, and the action takes place in cramped interior spaces, according to guest director Bruce K. Sevy, a former Utahn who is associate artistic director and director of New Play Development at the Denver Center Theatre Company.

But the second act transports the audience to Italy, where it's sunny and warm.

The latter — the bright, warm landscape surrounding a rented Italian castle — should be the perfect antidote for the wintery onslaught and dreary haze of the past few weeks along the Wasatch Front.

The plot revolves around four British women — two married, one a carefree "modern," the fourth a widow — as they share expenses to rent a villa in Italy for a month.

Sevy was quick to admit that "it's a chick-flick kind of play, and I remember liking the movie at the time."

He first saw Barber's script when he and his current boss, Kent Thompson, were both at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in Birmingham before "Enchanted April" debuted in 2000 at Hartford, Conn. "Ken almost had me do it in Alabama. It was the first draft, and there have been three other revisions since then. It's fun to see how it has mutated from Hartford to New York (where it was produced in 2003).

"This is a good adaptation of the novel. I went back and read the book, which kind of fills in the backstory. The basic germ of the story is still there (in Barber's stage version). A lot in the script is very funny, but it's also very human."

Sevy has found the script "fun to sort of play with. You have these two middle-class housewives, Lotty and Rose, then at the other ends of the spectrum there's a modern flapper, and Mrs. Graves, who is deep into the literary tradition of the time. It's fun to explore all that."

He added, "I'm pleased with the cast. Chuck (Charles Morey, PTC artistic director) and I went out in January to cast this in New York City and saw some great people and we got all of our first choices."

Two popular local performers, Joyce Cohen and Max Robinson, are playing Lotty Wilton and her husband Mellersh. Lotty is a drab housewife, dissatisfied with her marriage to a wealthy but self-centered London solicitor.

Gloria Biegler (seen locally in such roles as Claire in "Proof" and Susannah in "Joyful Noise") is playing Rose Arnott, the repressed and slightly depressed wife of a social-climbing novelist. And James Judy (who played Juan Peron in PTC's "Evita" in both 1993 and 2004) is Frederick Arnott, a globe-trotting poet who writes best-selling risque novels under another name.

Other guest artists include Lisa DeMont as the glamorous, free-thinking Lady Caroline Bramble; Sally Kemp as the elderly but strong-willed widow Mrs. Graves; Alex Podulke as the the renters' unpretentious landlord, Antony Wilding; and Suzanne Grodner (Zerbinetta in PTC's 1994 "Scapino!") as Costanza, the wise-cracking Italian maid.

Sevy is also pleased to "finally be working with (scenery designer) George Maxwell, who I've known for years. He addresses the challenges of both these very different acts."

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The director said he is familiar with the dreary weather that occurs in the first act in London. "I lived in Seattle for a while and it rained all the time there."

He also said the three men with major male roles in the play "now know how it feels for women to be in a Shakespearean play. We rarely have a play where the women are carrying the weight."

If you go

What: "Enchanted April," Pioneer Theatre Company

Where: Pioneer Memorial Theatre, University of Utah

When: Wednesday through April 8

How much: $20-$39

Phone: 581-6961

Web site: www.pioneertheatre.org


E-mail: ivan@desnews.com