AISLE SAY: “HE SAID”…A Panoply of Poltergeists in BLITHE SPIRIT

by Greer Firestone

Noel Coward is one of the finest exemplars of the axiom, “With words we rule men”. There are so many of Aisle Say’s own personal enemies out there – some even reading this column – about whom I could say “You’ll never die….(unfortunately) you’re not the dying sort.”

The séance begins (From left: Ceal Phelan, Peter DeLaurier, Meaghan Colleen Moroney, James Michael Reilly, and Christie Parker) in a scene from Delaware Theater Company's BLITHE SPIRIT, running through March 20 in Wilmington DE. (Photo: Matt Urban)

There is great skill attached to reciting dialogue from such a prolific, urbane, clever and down right funny word smith. One’s diction must be rapier precise; one’s timing must be naturally born and one’s eyebrows must be forever arched in devil-may-care insouciance.

While from my seat I could not see the angle of the actors’ collective eyebrows, otherwise the acting ensemble at DE Theater Company achieved all the elements in performance of a Coward script.

Director Domenick Scudera assembled the most skilled actors in this DTC season. There were multiple iattempts at physical humor early on with klutzy maid Edith (Sarah Doherty) that had no basis in the real world as Aisle Say (and dear sister Liz) perceives it. The pratfalls were both a stretch and an eye rolling strain to credulity. Otherwise the pace was swift and the acting confidant.

A full house on opening night was greeted by a set (Designer John Raley) clever by two for a Coward play. The audience sitting center and left saw a dining room through double doors and a foyer. A very inventive conceit by Raley.

Husband / wife team of Dr. Bradman (Peter DeLaurier) and Mrs. Bradman (Ceal Phelan), two-thirds of the founding team of DTC in 1973 – along with Cleveland Morris – returned to their own ‘haunts’…(this is BLITHE SPIRIT, you know)! Phelan has played both Ruth and Elvira in past productions of her storied and enviable career.

Act II was the most fun. The characters had been introduced in the bit longish and drawn out first. But now the energy level rose and the story went a pretty pace.  Charles (James Michael Reilly) maintained a calm demeanor on the exterior with a more or less evil one inside. (I surmise wishing one’s wife dead would be categorized that way. However, it’s all in the execution, is it not?)

Ruth (Christie Parker) expressed love for her husband, disbelief at this blithe spirit taking over their home and a wonderful justification in her vengeance.

Beth Hylton (Elvira) took over the audience upon her first entrance. Great theatre is about surprise. Coward knew that. That’s why, in 1941, with the dread of the German bombing of London he wrote the show in 6 days. Elvira surprised us with her bouncy exuberance from her entrance and we were hooked.

The comedic star of the show was Madame Arcati (Meghan Colleen Moroney). Never without a witty, compelling and jaw dropping repartee to her inquisitors, she was a delight. We were convulsed as she walked about the sitting room surveying for fairies, apparitions or whatever blithe spirits she was divining for.

by Noel Coward
Directed by Domenick Scudera
March 2 – 20, 2011
Delaware Theatre Company
200 Water Street
Wilmington, DE 19801
Box Office 302.594.1100

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