Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
April in Paris
Also see Carla's review of The Revolutionists
April in Paris was written by British playwright and director John Godber, whose work is perhaps not well known in the United States, but he is the third most performed playwright in Britain, after Shakespeare and Alan Ayckbourn. Godber is known for his boisterous comedies, but April in Paris is less boisterous and more of a fast-paced, two person, verbal romp through the tropes of Yorkshire, England and Paris in 1992. Along the way we learn a lot about a couple and their marriage, and they learn a lot about themselves.
Life is not very eventful for Bet and Al, an older couple in Yorkshire, England, where he is bored and retired and she works at a nothing job. Then they win a short trip to Paris. Bet sees the trip as a great opportunity, where Al is overcome with trepidation at leaving his comfort zone and facing the unknown. Together they navigate the ferry across the English Channel, the sights of Paris, French food and French waiters, a drag club in Pigalle, art in the Louvre, and an incident on the Metro. Experiencing many of the usual cliches of visiting Paris, they negotiate the trip in their own unique way.
Jessica Osborne and Dan Ware bring a great deal of energy to their portrayals of Bet and Al. The two-hour play with intermission flies by with their sparkling repartee and physical comedy. They are two seasoned professionals who shine in these roles. It is a very wordy play and both actors enunciate every word.
The play is staged at the North Fourth Art Center, an intimate space with modern technical support. The two characters act against a white tri-fold backdrop using two white chairs and minimal props. As the play progresses, projections of locations and lighting gobos are used to establish scenes. Little or no projections are used in the first half of the play. Perhaps the set and lighting designers decided to keep the scenes in England drab and the Paris locales colorful. A more all-encompassing vision might have served the piece better. The beginning of the play could have used more technical enhancements.
Bet and Al learn to communicate again and even to laugh at themselves. The actors must make this transition believable. They come together and re-establish intimacy at the end, but this seems abrupt. I wanted to see more intimate moments between them leading up to the end. Yes, it is a comedy, but it is a poignant comedy. The audience delights as they find each other again.
The costumes are adequate but could have suggested the period of 1992 more. The music, especially the French songs, helps set the mood. April in Paris is a thoroughly professional production and a delightful theatrical diversion.
West End Productions' April in Paris runs through May 7, 2023, at the North Fourth Art Center, 4904 4th St. NW, Albuquerque NM. Performances are Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Online general admission tickets $23. Students, seniors and SAG/AFTRA $22. At the door $25 and $24. For tickets and information, please visit www.westendproductions.org or call 505-404-8462.
Directed by Colleen Neary McClure. With Jessica Osbourne and Dan Ware.