Standing Ovation for Blithe Spirit…Even the Ghosts Are Clapping by John Dwyer
Blithe Spirit by Noel Coward is one of the most delightful British comedies of all time. It is smart and witty and sophisticated. Prior to Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap”, it was the longest running non-musical play of all time for London with almost 2000 performances. It was last seen on Broadway, with Rupert Everett, Christine Ebersole and Angela Lansbury in 2009. Music Mountain Theatre has done a lovely mounting of it that makes it impossible for a smile to leave your face for the entire duration of the show. Coward was dealing with a widower Charles Codomine who is a novelist. His first wife, Elvira, died seven years ago. He has since remarried Ruth and the play begins before the arrival of another couple for dinner. Charles is working on a book that involves mediums and clairvoyance. He wants to learn the tricks of the trade and has asked Madame Arcati to come over to do a séance, as entertainment after they eat. Everyone is skeptical until Arcati conjures up Charles’s ex-wife.
Coward wanted to make sure in his writing that not much time was spent on the dying of anyone. This was not to be a crime story or a story about death and grief. It was to be a comedy. The film Topper with Cary Grant came out in 1937 covering some of the same ground as a comedy and may have been an influence.
If you like tales of friendly but mischievous ghosts and their hi-jinks, this delightful concoction is for you. The audience was laughing and clapping throughout at my performance.
Charles Condomine is played by Patrick Lavery in a sterling performance of a sophisticated man who seems bent in NOT believing what is right before his eyes…GHOSTS, When his ex-wife Elvira (Lauren Brader) appears in a billowing white chiffon with her blonde hair and angelic face, no one sees her but him. He is dumbfounded. Ah!...but Elvira is far from angelic and that is when chaos reigns. Brader gives an alluring, sexy and charmingly wicked performance.
She is summoned by Madame Arcati (Joan Hoffman). Ms. Hoffman is a marvel. Delightful in her serious wackiness, she summons her astral visitors through a child spirit guide when in trance. The audience loves Arcati and seemingly adores Ms. Hoffman, as well. A very fun and lovely performance.
Alison McMullen as the second wife Ruth gives a truly amazing performance. I am writing this sentence currently to doubly stress what I just said. It is a wonderful performance. It is difficult to act this show when playing to your fellow actors. But Ms. McMullen has the difficult job of playing to ghosts and to empty space sometimes and then to an actor who is a ghost that she cant see. To believably “not see what you do see” is an acting challenge and McMullen is technical perfection. She not only pulls it off, but knocks it out of the park.
The rest of the cast includes dinner guests, Dr. Bradman (Tristan Takacs), Mrs. Bradman (Madison Kotnarowski) and Edith the maid (Jessica Stahl). Everyone does good work. British accents are on point. This is truly a wonderful ensemble.
Other beautiful elements of this show are the trompe-l’oeil, gold leaf around the proscenium arch, the elegant set pieces, sconces, chandelier and divan with two sets of French doors. The costumes are elegant for the human beings and flowy and heavenly for any ghosts and colorfully playful for the medium.
Kudos to director Micky Dominick and costume designer Jordan Brennan.
A classic show. Well acted. Nightly it is bringing audiences to their feet, applauding loud enough for ghosts to hear. More classics should be done more often. Bravo, MMT!
Photos by John Posada