[This is a review done for a western theatre class last fall. It was for the play Blithe Spirit which was actually kinda fun to watch.]
Noel Coward’s "Blithe Spirit" has quite assuredly withstood the test of time, and Mary A. Donahoe’s production doesn’t disappoint in living up to its history. Each one of the actors was well versed and confident in their roles. All lent their talents to the characterizations with professional flair. Ryan Imhoff performed the charming and completely witty Charles Condomine while Sarah Thornton and Claire Kennedy personified the devoted wives of his character; Ruth Condomine (a rather prissy individual who borders on dull) and Elvira (a fun-loving and conniving personality) respectively. Rounding out the cast were exceptional deliveries by Mark Hess as Dr. George Bradman, Dana Calvey as Mrs. Violet Bradman (both the Bradman’s play observational roles in the events that transpire), Jessica Kinzbach playing the ever quirky Madame Arcati (an amusing individual who spends too much time upon her back), and Shelby Garrett portraying the clumsy and unsure housemaid Edith (of whom there seems a strong connection to the family Condomine).
Having been written in the early part of the 1940's, where war was tearing London asunder, the play was devised in such a manner as to liven spirits of those caught in the barrage and to serve as a poignant reminder of their strength of convictions. Outside of the conditions that brought "Blithe Spirit" about, where the underlying joke almost seems to suggest that ‘you may kill our wives but you’ll never get rid of them!’, the general genre paints it as a dark comedy. Which is appropriate since the tone suggests a theme of survival within the grasps of certain demise.
It is important to note that, though the genre is a dark comedy with themes of death and poor judgement, the context goes hand in hand with the subject matter. Obviously the war and the chaos of those dying under the German assault weighed heavily during initial productions of this play. Certainly the most crucial ingredient to the play’s success lies in the perseverance of a people’s will in the face of great adversity. What better way to silence the drums of war than to laugh in the face of death?
A basic synopsis of "Blithe Spirit" plays out as such, a rather impeccable character, Charles Condomine, decides it would be fun to have a certain woman over for entertainment. At her expense, he devises an evening held in her honor so that she may perform, for his and his friends’ amusement, a seance. During this seance, strange things occur leading to all manner of potentially personal hijinks which culminate in an unconscious guest and an unwanted specter from Charles’ past; his dead wife Elvira. Without divulging anything further of the plot, it is sufficient to say that things go from Charles’ repulsion to his eventual acceptance and enjoyment at the spectacle of the whole matter. That is, until Elvira determines that she should have Charles all to herself.
Quite frankly, I rather enjoyed this presentation of "Blithe Spirit". It was wildly amusing and creatively constructed. The actors were phenomenal in their roles and actually make me eager to see another such play. Normally, I don’t like to attend such events as I’ve always found them boring. However, the cast and crew of this project have done such a marvelous job with the material, even the singular set that never changed was a beautifully done element, that I look forward to seeing what else they may endeavor to perform in their respective career paths. Certainly Mr. Imhoff, Ms. Thornton, and Ms. Kennedy are individuals I would be intrigued in following. Of course, everyone did a superb job and deserve the accolades they received. This is one play where it is obvious why it remains so timeless and how it is one can so easily become lost within the characterizations.