“Enchanted April,” by Fine Arts Center, preview Thursday, $20-$30; opens Friday, 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, through Feb. 26, FAC, 30 W. Dale St., $20-$45; 634-5581, csfineartscenter.org
Something else: Guided backstage tour after Feb. 23 show, free; talk back session after Feb. 26 show, free
“The Hairy Ape,” by TheatreWorks, previews Thursday and Friday, opens Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Feb. 18 and 25, 4 p.m. Sundays, through Feb. 26, Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, 3955 Regent Circle, $36-$42, $18 17 and younger, free UCCS students, no children 4 and younger; 255-3232, theatreworkscs.org
Something else: Prologue lecture, 2:30 p.m. Sunday, free; talk back session after Friday’s show
The Fine Arts Center’s production of Matthew Barber’s “Enchanted April” will be the yin to TheatreWorks’ yang performance of Eugene O’Neill’s “The Hairy Ape.”
Both shows open the same weekend and run through Feb. 26. “The Hairy Ape” will be in Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater at University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
Murray Ross, TheatreWorks’ longtime artistic director, was set to direct the company’s first O’Neill show, but died in early January, shortly after assembling the cast. Scott Levy, the FAC’s executive director of performing arts and producing artistic director, was asked to take over the reins after Ross first became sick and it was assumed he would need to rest after a hospital stay.
The 1922 expressionist play about a laborer searching for his place in a world controlled by the wealthy happened to be one of Levy’s favorites.
“O’Neill spans lots of dramatic ideas but ‘The Hairy Ape’ and ‘The Emperor Jones’ exist as masterpieces of 20th century American theater expressionism,” Levy said. “His ability to use colloquialism and dialect of the period as poetry and tell a linear story that isn’t about one character or characters but about an issue in society and the structure of it makes it special in American theater.”
On the other end of the spectrum is the FAC’s estrogen-rich comedy about four women who go on holiday in Italy to escape their lives and re-discover themselves. Barber adapted the 2003 stage play from Elizabeth von Arnim’s 1922 novel “The Enchanted April.”
“It’s kind of like a midlife crisis romance play for women,” said director Joye Cook-Levy. “It’s so perfect that we’re doing this on Valentine’s Day for couples to see themselves at different points in life and for women to come together.”
Though the two plays might seem at odds with each other, there are some common denominators – the search for self and where one belongs in society.
“They’re two different visions of the exact same time,” Levy said.
It’s also the first time in a dozen years since they became parents that the husband and wife are directing in the same exact time frame, with matching rehearsals and opening nights.
“We know each other’s plays,” said Levy. “That’s always helpful whether we’re directing at the same time or not. We’ll come home at night after rehearsal and talk about the work we did and what’s coming tomorrow. We can really dialogue with each other effectively about not just the script but the way we work.”