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Meadow Brook Theatre's Enchanted April requires some clarification: the word enchantment can refer to magic, but also describes the human quality of charm. In fact, the mystical enchantment touched on in Matthew Barber's script (based on the novel by Elizabeth von Arnim) turns out to look suspiciously like the real-life magic of a good vacation. The most supernatural effect of the production is that of scenic designer Kristen Gribbin and the stage crew, who deserve accolades for the transition from an intentionally drab, close London interior to the lush, spacious Italian seaside.

The plot is easily distilled: In 1922, four English women are in need of a change, go on holiday, and feel better for it. Vacations are great; this is not new. (It wasn't new in 1922, for that matter.) What makes this show endearing is its funny, warm, revealing, touching interactions. There is relatively little serious conflict; among a group of fundamentally likable characters, it's not surprising that they would all basically like each other. Even in troubling moments, the play's more than two hours are kept moving by the promise of impending pleasantness — and it abounds.

As directed by Travis W. Walter, the cast's eight characters are familiar without being tiresome, serious yet capable of great levity. The mastermind of the women's getaway is Lotty (Robyn Lipnicki), whose free spirit sets her apart from the other, more proper characters — almost incongruously so. She first befriends Rose (Jean Lyle Lepard), a somber acquaintance caught perusing an ad describing an Italian castle available to rent for all of April. Together, Lotty and Rose write their own ad and find two more traveling companions: gin-soaked socialite Lady Caroline (Leslie Ann Handelman) and cranky dowager Mrs. Graves (Ruth Crawford). With the Great War so recently concluded, Lotty and Rose are frequently mistaken for widows, but both are still married, to exacting solicitor Mellersh (Andrew Huff) and newly famous-and-loving-it author Frederick (Aaron H. Alpern), respectively. The other male presence in the production is the villa's owner, a trifecta of rich, dapper, and attentive comfortably underplayed by Mitch Koory.

A jumpy first act consists of brief expository scenes in which the supporting characters meet Lotty and Rose, but not anyone else. Here, different parts of the stage serve as different homes and establishments (helped by cool rotating panels and Reid G. Johnson's precise lighting design); a highlight of the location shifting is a well-executed dual scene in which far-removed, simultaneous conversations play off of each other. The second act throws everyone together, opening up — in a reflection of that gorgeous set, and the night-and-day costumes by Corey T. Globke — to plot developments influenced by bedroom farce. It also adds salty housekeeper Costanza (Jennifer George) into the mix, and the skirmishes that erupt between the demanding Crawford and the expressive George are among the best of the acutely timed jokes and bits.

Enchanted April has a distinct slice-of-life point of view, one that allows it to eschew high-stakes situations and emotional extremes: although the sense of something missing is entrenched, the characters are never in truly desperate circumstances, nor are they prone to 180-degree changes in outlook or demeanor. Some might find the lack of major highs and lows a bit mundane, but a journey this light and warm, with a generous amount of humor, has charm enough to satisfy.


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