BWW Review: ENCHANTED APRIL is Enchanting in July
As an erstwhile urbanite, I was unprepared for rustic delights of the Circle Bar B Ranch dinner theatre experience. Out amongst the oaky chaparral on the Gaviota coast, Circle Bar B is an actual ranch, and from the barns and horses and saddles to the lounge with taxidermy elk and deer on the wall, Circle Bar B provides a delicious foray into country culture.
Circle Bar B offers dinner theatre, which includes authentic cowboy fare (tri-tip and chili) to be enjoyed on the patio, a lovely venue for a meal in the summer twilight. It's truly a departure from the more bustling theatre scene in downtown Santa Barbara, though it's only a half an hour up the 101. The shows (in this case Enchanted April, though Circle Bar B has a full theatrical season every year) are performed in a small, intimate space below the main ranch house. Susie and David Couch, producers of Circle Bar B's theatre division, are charming, consummate hosts, making the mood light and fun. Friendly and gregarious, they engage the audience by recognizing birthdays and anniversaries-the ambiance is personal, amiable, and relaxed.
Enchanted April is a tender, optimistic play about discovering the momentum in a stagnating life to seek out a measure of inspiration. The play generously allows its characters, all struggling with festering dissatisfaction, the unobstructed impetus to seek respite from the static furrow of placid melancholy. Shannon Saleh and Jean Hall play Lottie Wilton and Rose Arnott, respectively: two unhappy housewives who rent a castle in Italy for a holiday away from their stifling home lives. They split the rental cost with the cantankerous-with-age Mrs. Graves (Marion Freitag), and Lady Caroline Bramble (Britni Alleman), a weary party-girl who longs for solitude away from the pressures and expectations of life as a glamorous socialite. The women spend several weeks in Italy rediscovering their joie de vivre.
Enchanted April featured a number of standout performances from talented local actors. Dillon Yuhsaz is funny in absolutely everything, and his performance as the uptight, snooty Mellersh Wilton, Lottie's prissy and emotionally inept husband, is a constant highlight. Jean Hall and Marion Freitag play Rose Ornott and Mrs. Gray with subtle despondency that underlies an external layer of disapproval; those hints of deeper sadness disguised as general ennui suited the light, innocent nature of the play. Barbara Tzur, as the maid, Costanza, only speaks in Italian: it's a challenge to deliver humor in a foreign language-there's an aspect of physicality involved, the art of conveying meaning via specific gestures and expressions. Tzur earns laughs consistently with a skilled performance of understated flourish. Finally, Shannon Saleh, as the docile and eternally hopeful housewife, is bewitching as the most enchanted element of the production. Saleh portrays Lottie Wilton as light and flittering, a hummingbird of a woman who finds ground and clarity after separating herself from her dreary, unabated experience of ordinariness. Lottie actively pursues personal fulfillment, and her optimism and generosity of spirit make her an extremely sympathetic character. Her energy keeps the narrative, which is leisurely (not unlike an Italian holiday), at a comfortable level of movement and development.
The Circle Bar B dinner theatre experience was unique and delightful. I'll certainly be returning for their next show, Boeing, Boeing, in September. Circle Bar B offers an evening of entertaining theatre in a beautiful location. To those who enjoy wisteria and sunshine, Enchanted April at the Circle Bar B ranch is a welcome reprieve from cynicism; a bucolic, unpretentious theatrical experience.
@ The Circle Bar B Ranch
July 25th -September 7th