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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News
Antony Wilding (Alex Podulke) brings some nuts to Mrs. Graves (Sally Kemp) in "Enchanted April."
"ENCHANTED APRIL," PIONEER THEATRE COMPANY, Pioneer Memorial Theatre, University of Utah, through April 8 (581-6961). Running time: two hours and 15 minutes (one intermission).

Lotty has a gift. She can sense when other people are sad. Of course there are a lot of sad people in England in the early 1920s. The First World War has just ended. Brothers, husbands and sons are dead.

Joyce Cohen is lovely in the role of Lotty, in Pioneer Memorial Theatre's production of "Enchanted April." This is her second time this season playing a wacky middle-age woman, and she does wacky well.

She also brings energy, and a high-energy Lotty is vital. Otherwise, you have a talky, thinky production.

If you saw the movie "Enchanted April," you know this story. In the midst of a dreary English winter, in the midst of a dreary marriage, Lotty spots an ad for an Italian castle for rent. She finds three other women and forces them into sharing a vacation.

Bruce Sevy directs. Gloria Biegler plays Rose Arnott, a woman who at first seems incapable of joy. Lisa Demont brings a certain mystery to the role of Caroline. Sally Kemp is a properly proper Mrs. Graves.

Alex Podulke is suitably handsome in the role of the slightly odd castle owner. Sevy has reined Max Robinson in a bit in his part as Lotty's husband, resulting in a good performance. The husband is enough of a character without having Robinson's large personality laid over the top. James Judy is smooth, verging on oily, as Frederick Arnott.

On opening night, the audience responded warmly after intermission, when the curtain went up on the set of a garden in Italy. (Set design by George Maxwell. Lighting by Lynne Chase.) It is also fun to watch the rain roll down the window in the English scene.

In many ways this is a light and charming play, and audiences will love it as an escape. (And not just female audiences, either. The men sitting around me on opening night gave it two thumbs up.) The only part of the script that seems dated and overly cute is the story about the little stick that blooms where it is planted.

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In some ways, however, this play is not at all light-hearted. The day this production opened, the headline in the Deseret Morning News read: "Bush says U.S. troops will stay in Iraq for years."

Because there is a war on now, it is possible for "Enchanted April" to resonate on another level. Knowing what went before, the hilarity of the Roaring '20s can seem forced. The young people are seen to be burdened, their innocence gone forever.

The dialogue about loss, the lines about "before" and "after," seem more painfully true than they might have seemed if PMT had done this play a few years ago.


E-mail: susan@desnews.com