'Enchanted April'

Valley Playhouse Comes Of Age

Posted: February 28, 2013

The cast of The Valley Playhouse’s production “Enchanted April”are (from left) “Caroline,” Rachel Zapata; “Ms. Graves,” Laura Dansby; “Mellersh Wilkins,” Howie Jeffries; “Costanza,” Gail Arthur, and “Lotty,” Nicole Walker. (Photo by Aimee George / DN-R, Features)
Pip pip! The Valley Playhouse will raise a spot of tea to toast renewed relationships in “Enchanted April” on March 7-10 and 14-17 at Court Square Theater.

In 1920s England, two women are ready for an Italian holiday to escape their domestic frustrations.

Post-World War I, people were feeling a “collision between the 18th and 20th centuries,” says director Mary Ruberry. The “old modes” of relating to each other make room for personal and social transformations, with a “Downton Abbey energy,” she said.

Acting in a period piece poses unique challenges, says Howie Jeffries, who plays oppressive husband and aggressive businessman Mellersh Wilkins.

“In a sense, the play is a parable about how you deal with loss,” Jeffries says. “Everybody in this play is dealing with some sense of loss ... it really seems to be a story on how to deal with that and go forward.”

Although personal, societal and political changes loom over the characters, “Enchanted April” is a “delightful comedy ... that will make you laugh and cry,” says Lori Smilowitz, playing housewife Rose Arbuthnot.

“Each of the characters is going through a journey of healing in one way or another, but this is not a dark comedy.”

Smilowitz also found that taking her acting skills across the pond was a big task. “We’re trying to make the show as authentic as possible in every aspect from costumes, props, British accents to mannerisms of the early 20th century,” she says.

Taking on a directing role for only the second time in 15 years, Ruberry says the cast and uplifting story has made theater “easy to jump back into.”

But she’s no novice to the stage; Ruberry brings experience from leading roles in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Los Angeles to Harrisonburg’s scene.

“I’m hoping [audiences] leave with a renewed sense of interrelationships, and of enjoying one another,” she says.

Smilowitz agrees: “I believe the audience will walk away feeling good and thinking about what is really important in life.”

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit valleyplayhouse.com.


Contact Samantha Cole at    574-6274 or scole@dnronline.com.


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