Enchanted April lives up to its name, with enticing characters and an engaging plot. The tale begins in 1922 in dreary England, where a frumpy Lotty Wilton (Cary Anne Spear) finds herself dissatisfied with her humdrum existence. She finds escape through an ad in the paper -- a rentable castle in Italy. Her heart aflame with possibility, she ropes a fellow churchgoer, Rose (Laura Turnbull), into the vacation scheme. Needing two others to come along to help pay the bills, Lotty and Rose entice a lonely and beautiful modern girl, Lady Caroline (Annie Reilly), and a rigid, gray-haired drill sergeant of a woman named Mrs. Graves (Pat Nesbit). The unfolding of the relationship among these strangers is poignant and moving. The play is naturally witty and poetic. The castle set is breathtaking, and every actor is true-to-life. Spear is priceless, turning from a flighty victim into a natural and exuberant leader of the group, more glowingly enthusiastic than Pollyanna. Turnbull, whose character Lotty refers to as "the disappointed Madonna," is equally magnificent, evolving from a repressed wife into a blooming young woman ready to accept love. Nesbit skillfully employs body language, speech, and a tight-lipped smile to unveil Mrs. Graves' more vulnerable side. Dennis Creaghan wonderfully portrays Mr. Wilton, a man who appreciates impressionistic art over his wife. Jacqueline Knapp is funny as the Italian-speaking maid Costanza; Bruce Linser charms as the dapper young landlord who brings out the best in everyone. (Through February 13 at Caldwell Theater, 7873 N. Federal Hwy., Boca Raton, 561-241-7432.) -- Rachel Galvin
California Suite by Neil Simon is a series of four vignettes that take place in the same hotel room. The play starts off slowly with a scene between anal intellectual New York editor Hannah (Merry Jo Pitasi) and her ex-husband, Polo-shirt-wearing Billy (James Cichewicz). But the second piece is so laugh-out-loud funny that it makes the whole play worth watching. A hungover and frantic Marvin (Rusty Allison) panics when he awakens to find a girl (Elizabeth King) in his bed and his wife, a buttoned-up Millie (Meryl Bezrutczyk), on her way to the hotel. Exhausted from her flight, Millie just wants to nap, but a frazzled Marvin keeps her out of the bedroom using one ridiculous excuse after another. Then there's a pair of English theatrical types. Diana (Pitasi) is nominated for tonight's Academy Awards. Appearing nonchalant and highbrow but insecure about her appearance, she slowly descends into a despair and longing that cannot be satiated by her refined, gay husband, Sidney (Dante Marelli). Pitasi puts more weight into this character, conquering accent and mannerism, showing depth of emotion, while Marelli stays distantly aloof. In the fourth vignette, four friends take the vacation from hell. Husband Mort (Cichewicz) and friend Stu (Allison) fight after Mort's wife, Beth (King), injures herself in a tennis match. A whiny Beth protects her leg while a preppy Gert (Bezrutczyk) tries to break up the set; hilarity ensues. (Through March 6 at Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W. Sample Rd., Coral Springs, 954-344-7765.)
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Ice Glen, Joan Ackermann's rumination on the wistful asceticism of the World War I-era arts-and-crafts movement and the pressures of commercialism, never really takes off. A would-be love triangle dissipates into melancholy character study, and Ackermann's story flounders in blurry dreaminess. There's a barefoot, nature-loving poet (who's rumored to be having an affair with a bear), a sexually conflicted magazine editor, and a hot/cold aristocratic widow (Alicia Roper). Only Roper seems to catch fire in her part, when her character hotly confronts a man who has rejected her. The production's good points are undermined by its inattention to details. For example, much of the costuming is a jarring mishmash of modern suits and shoes and generic stock items that would scarcely pass muster at a community theater. (Through January 16 at Florida Stage, 262 S. Ocean Blvd., Manalapan, 561-585-3433.)