Written in 1922, the themes of Elizabeth von Arnim’s “The Enchanted April” tells the story of four women who travel to Italy to make sense of their purpose and marriages in post-World War I Europe.
Natalie McManus, who portrays Lotty in the Silver Spring Stage adaptation, “Enchanted April,” opening April 13, says elements of the play still apply to life today some 90 years after it was written.
“The characters, the lightness, the overcoming... there’s more to life than just taking care of the home and finding that spark again, that romantic spark, with your spouse and things,” McManus says. “There are things that resonated. I’ve been married for 27 years so marriages go through all kinds of cycles.”
The play starts when Lotty approaches Rose, a fellow women’s club member, about taking a trip to Italy.
“[Lotty’s] always been very lighthearted, but England and the dreariness and the rain and her marriage has kind of gotten into a rut,” McManus says. “She’s been married for a while and she doesn’t have any children and her life is taking care of her house and her husband, and she’s wondering, ‘Is this it?’”
During the war, women took over many of the men’s responsibilities, assisting the war effort. Director Laurie T. Freed says the play comments on how women were unsure of their place in society.
“Although the war itself never landed on the shore of England, [the English] were really greatly affected,” Freed says. “Millions of men were killed, men were wounded. Women were left without husbands and brothers, and things were different, now. The Gilded Age, the Victorian Period, was on the wane and women were, I would say, adrift during this time.”
Through the lens of a romantic comedy, “Enchanted April” examines the struggles of marriage, and also addresses the elderly’s role in society with the character of Mrs. Graves.
“The 70-year-old has been a widow for some time [and] the question of ageism comes up. You’re old, you’re not necessary anymore, you’re an antique. And she realizes that’s she is vital, she does have worth,” Freed says.
The first act of the play is set in a dark and dreary England. For the second half, the characters travel to Portofino, Italy.
Freed devised the first half of the show to appear in the front of the stage.
“They’re playing downstage. Then, when we’re in Italy ... that space is opened up and we use the entire stage so we can breathe. So that’s purposely done to make the downstage feel claustrophobic,” Freed says.
Like McManus, Annette Kalicki, who portrays Rose, says the play resonates with people today.
“Even today, you read in papers how more and more people are feeling isolated ... Everyone pulls into their garage and walks right into their house and they’re not connecting with their neighbors,” Kalicki says. “More and more people feel isolated.”
Still, just as people today deal with isolation and marital issues, there always is the chance to step outside of themselves.
“It’s almost like they all get a chance to find themselves and, in a way, kind of realize what was missing in their lives and come to terms with the issues that they have in their lives.”