Noël Coward’s writing is well known for its witty dialogue and quick humor, and those qualities are particularly well-evidenced in his 1941 play, Blithe Spirit, onstage now at Raleigh Little Theatre in a production directed by Tony Lea.
The play focuses on Charles (John Allore), a writer seeking inspiration for his latest story. To find that inspiration, he turns to a self-proclaimed psychic medium, Madame Arcati (Marilyn Gorman). Unfortunately for Charles and fortunately for the trajectory of the story, he gets more than he bargained for. Somehow, when Madame Arcati hosts a seance in Charles’ home, they manage to summon Elvira (Anne-Caitlin Donohue), Charles’ mischievous (and long-dead) ex-wife. His current wife, Ruth (Page Purgar), is none too happy about that, especially since she can’t actually see or hear the meddling Elvira. As one can imagine with a premise like this one, calamity ensures in this three act circus.
The gifted actors bring Coward’s well-written, time-tested banter to full and perfect life. Purgar and Allore, in particular, share a comedic chemistry that allows then to bounce their lines off one another well and send the audience into hysterics multiple times. Even when he’s on his own, Allore is at his best here, lending his ever-present physical energy to his character and successfully portraying Charles’ growing frustration with his dueling wives. Donohue also proves adept at commanding a stage. She is outwardly resplendent in her flowing ghostly garb but still manages to communicate her character’s true, vindictive nature. Using over-the-top facial expressions and a cocky strut, she turns Elvira into one of the show’s most memorable and endearing-in-spite-of-herself characters. Even the “minor” (or not-so-minor as it turns out) character of Edith, the family’s maid, is made hilarious by Izzy Burger’s portrayal. Burger’s Edith dashes and sometimes tiptoes around the stage with an undeniable vigor, rounding out this talented cast.
All of the action plays out on a well-designed house set by Thomas Mauney. The set mainly consists of a large, open living room, but behind it, doors and a hallway are visible. The open hallway allows viewers to see all of Edith’s running around and provides just enough literal depth to make the set more realistic. Impressive special effects near the end- effects which actually move pieces around this intricately designed set- also add a touch of sophistication to this production.
Blithe Spirit is a story about crossed communication, relationships, and the way our pasts inevitably carry over into our futures. Aside from all of those themes, however, it’s just plain funny. The show has a long running time- two and a half hours with two intermissions- but the time flies by thanks to the laughs and the strong writing. A definite hit for RLT.
Raleigh Little Theatre presents BLITHE SPIRIT 8 p.m. June 7, 3 p.m. June 8, 8 p.m. June 12-14, 3 p.m. June 15, 8 p.m. June 19-21, and 3 p.m. June 22 in RLT‘s Cantey V. Sutton Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.
TICKETS: $20 ($16 students and seniors 62+), except all tickets are $12 for the 3 p.m. Sunday, June 8th, performance.
BOX OFFICE: 919-821-3111 or https://raleighlittletheatre.secure.force.com/.
SHOW: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/shows/13-14/blithe.html and https://www.facebook.com/events/1486128881616409/.
2013-14 SEASON: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/shows/13-14/index.html.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.raleighlittletheatre.org/, https://www.facebook.com/RaleighLittleTheatre, and https://twitter.com/RLT1936.
NOTE 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices are available for all shows.
NOTE 2: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 8 p.m. Thursday, June 12th, performance.
NOTE 3: The show’s 8 p.m. Thursday, June 19th, performance will be preceded by a special “Out at RLT,” event, with Raleigh Little Theatre partnering with The LGBT Center of Raleigh for a 6:30-7:30 p.m. beer tasting and social in the lobby of RLT‘s Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre. Fortnight Brewing will provide the beer, and Big Mikes BBQ will have a food truck on hand. Tickets for the entire evening will be $25 for adults and $21 for students and seniors.
Blithe Spirit: An Improbable Farce in Three Acts (1941 comedy): http://www.ibdb.com/show.asp?ID=2087 (Internet Broadway Database) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blithe_Spirit_%28play%29 (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Study Guide: http://www.bard.org/education/studyguides/Blithe/blithe.html (Utah Shakespeare Festival).
Sir Noël Coward (English playwright and composer, 1899-1973): http://www.noelcoward.net/ (The Noël Coward Society), http://www.noelcoward.com/ (The World of Noël Coward), http://www.bard.org/education/studyguides/Blithe/blitheplaywright.html (Utah Shakespeare Festival), http://www.musicals101.com/noel.htm (“Noël Coward 101” from the Cyber Encyclopedia of Musical Theatre, Television and Film, compiled by John Kenrick), http://www.ibdb.com/person.asp?ID=36502 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0002021 (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No%C3%ABl_Coward (Wikipedia).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.susiepotter.com and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.