Legend has it that Noel Coward wrote BLITHE SPIRIT in five days (or six depending upon what you read) in 1941, during Britain’s darkest days of World War II. However many days it took him to write, BLITHE SPIRIT remains one of his most endearing plays, and with good reason: it is a throughly delightful piece and so enjoyable, if done right. This is not always easy, as it takes a skillful cast to deliver his quick-witted banter serving up those lines with just the right touch… gently poking fun at the martini-sipping sophisticated set.
Kelsey’s production does it extremely well. Although off to an uneven start, (after all it was opening night) it quickly became apparent that there are no weak performances in this show. The actors quickly found just the right pacing and kept the audience in a state of tickled contentment throughout the show, while nearly sitting on the edges of their seats to see what happens next.
Charles Condomine is played with just the right air of jaded sophistication by Walt Rosenfeld, who has invited Madame Arcati, portrayed by Virginia Barrie, to conduct a seance as part of his research for a book he is writing. His stuffy wife, Ruth (Lauren Makrancy), is busy giving instruction to their maid Edith, delightfully and well played by Susan Hoffman, trying rather unsuccessfully to get her to slow down instead of literally running about. This, combined with her squeaky little voice seemed to delight the audience and much of the laughter started here. They are soon joined by good friends, Dr. Bradman (Gary Gilbert) and his wife (Peggy Waldron) and await the arrival of Madame Arcati, the local medium, while sipping their martinis and jesting about the improbability of the whole medium-seance issue. All play their roles extremely well, exuding an air of bored sophistication with their idle chit-chat.
The doorbell rings and herein lies the evening’s real entertainment, not just for the Condomine’s and Bradman’s, but for the audience as well! Enter Madame Arcati who is on the prowl for vibrations from the spiritual world.
Virginia Barrie’s portrayal of Madame Arcati is nothing short of wonderful. She simply lights up the stage by creating a multi-layered personality played with dignity and conviction….very important point if we are to be drawn into what enfolds in the rest of the play. The group has their seance with some great lighting effects. Charles’ first wife Elvira, played with a charming, devilish delight by Michele Kallman makes her entrance. What ensues is a most delighful astral ménage à trois. I could wax on endlessly about the delightful things that occur and the brilliant meshing of the characters and the wonderful lines they toss back and forth, but I do not want to spoil your fun. You simply must go see this show.
The lighting, thanks to Bernie McGowen, and special effects are marvelous.The lighting effects during the seance and on Elvira’s entrance are especially well done. Her ethereal costume, make-up and hair are just superb. They add immensely to her character and performance. She seems to have a great time with her flowing scarf and I had a great time watching her. Equally effective are Ms. Rittmann’s perfectly executed, beautiful costumes for the rest of the cast, most especially for Ruth in Act II.
by Noel Coward
Directed by Ruth Markoe
at Kelsey Theatre
Mercer County Comm College
1200 Old Trenton Road
West Windsor, NJ 08550