Hindi Greenberg: ‘Blithe Spirit’ is ghostly good fun
KNOW & GO
WHO: Sierra Stages
WHAT: “Blithe Spirit”
WHEN: Feb. 28 through March 21. Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 19 at 7:30 p.m. Sundays at 2 p.m.
WHERE: Nevada Theatre, 401 Broad Street, Nevada City
MORE INFO: Visit http://www.SierraStages.org or call 530-346-3210
Sierra Stages’ first play of their 2020 season is a fun, veddy veddy English romp, complete with humorous parries, polite derision and quick wit, performed by an exceptional cast dressed in lovely costumes while inhabiting a beautifully designed set.
“Blithe Spirit” was written in a self-reported six days by the talented Sir Noël Coward, an English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer. Coward said he wrote it as an antidote for the doldrums of World War II (after his London house was bombed). The play was first produced in June 1941; the run set a record for non-musical plays in London’s West End that was not surpassed until 1957 by “The Mousetrap.” The Broadway premier was in November 1941.
The play has had various incarnations in both theater and film. There was a 1945 film with Rex Harrison, and one is scheduled to come out this year with Judi Dench as the batty and exuberant medium, Madame Arcati (played in our local production with equally eccentric and animated gusto, as well as excellent comic timing and mannerisms, by Sara Noah).
Set in a 1940s English country house, Charles and Ruth Condomine have invited friends to dinner and a séance, to be performed by Madame Arcati, which Charles hopes will give him material for the book he is writing about ghosts. The séance participants anticipate a lark, so Charles is shocked when his deceased first wife Elvira materializes. No one but Charles can hear or see Elvira, which sets up amusing miscommunications between Charles and his second wife Ruth. As the play evolves, Elvira tries to disaffect Charles and Ruth, to humorous and, eventually, fruitful effect. The quick repartee and lively language, as well as the frivolity with which Coward treats mortality, are what make the piece so invigorating.
The entire cast is superb. With a suave but perplexed Steve Lambert as Charles; Katherine Adrian as his aggravated wife Ruth; Kate Haight as the playful, cajoling and ghostly Elvira; and the extraordinary Sara Noah as Madame Arcati, the chemistry and comic relationships between the leads are palpable. Adding to the merriment is Lauren Langley as Edith, the Condomine’s frenetic maid, with her consistent physical gawkiness and astute comic timing. Completing the ensemble are the Condomine’s dinner guests, the polished and skeptical Dr. Bradman (John Gardiner) and the bemused Mrs. Bradman (Sylvie Hitchcock).
Scott Gilbert’s skillful direction creates a lively and spirited (pun intended) entertainment. Gilbert’s extremely attractive and functional set design is enhanced by Les Solomon’s masterful lighting and Paulette Sand-Gilbert’s exceptional period costumes (I covet the red gown worn by Ruth). The interludes using Noël Coward’s music establish the appropriate ambiance. Sharon Winegar gets kudos for her dialect coaching — although it took my ears several minutes to adjust to the English accents, my British-born theater guest judged the pronunciations to be fairly accurate.
Sierra Stages’ production of “Blithe Spirit” is lively, delightful, fun entertainment and a fine way to spend an evening (or afternoon). It runs through March 21 at the Nevada Theatre.
Hindi Greenberg isn’t sure if it would be fun to have a previously deceased loved one hanging around. Probably depends upon who that ghost is…..as to whether to give up the ghost.
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