The original 1922 novel by Elizabeth Von Arnim, screenwriter Peter Barnes' 1992 film and Matthew Barber's Tony-nominated 2003 stage adaptation all contain a beautiful sense of the title adjective in both language and character. In the early 1920s, two middle-class English women plot to escape wet and dreary London — and their husbands — for a month at a castle near the Italian Riviera; to afford it, they bring in some upper-crust ladies to join them. Unfortunately, director Patricia Lee Willson has neither the cast, production team, nor the skills to really draw us into either world. Much of the acting is amateurish — or is it just some highly inaccurate, overzealous English accents that make it seem so artificial? Hardest on the ears were Katie Kocis and Zakry Fin as the couple whose unhappy marriage instigates the proceedings; both are either forcing dialect or are simply undecipherable most of the time. As the ever-cranky, elder widow Mrs. Graves, Lareen Faye gives the evening's most enjoyable performance and not only because her portrayal is a perfect impression of Joan Plowright's characterization in the film version. The truest moments come in a few exchanges between the depressed and highly religious Rose (Lacy Altwine) and the castle's owner, Mr. Wilding (Charlie Bodin), both of whom manage to pull away from the overindulgence of the rest. Marion Wright's costumes generally work, but Justin Field's set fails to find the magic of Italia.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: June 13. Continues through July 26, 2008

LA Weekly