Tuesday, October 9, 2018

WOBT: "Blithe Spirit"

A staple on stage for decades, English playwright Noel Coward's brilliant 1941 comedy Blithe Spirit has made the rounds at several local theatres, the latest being done at the Way Off Broadway Theatre in Prattville.

In it, novelist Charles Condomine [Brady Walker] and his second wife Ruth [Cathy Ranieri] invite eccentric psychic Madame Arcati [Michon Givens] to conduct a seance at a small dinner party. What she doesn't know is that the skeptical Condomines and their other guests Dr. and Mrs. Bradman [Matthew Givens and Zyna Captain] merely want to find out from her some "tricks of the trade" for a new novel about the occult that Charles is writing.

When she accidentally conjures the ghost of Charles's first wife Elvira [Jillian Rabb], the comic situations abound, especially as Charles is the only one who can see or hear her. Despite their many attempts to exorcise her, and Mme. Arcati goes into a number of trances to effect the outcome, Elvira has no intention of leaving.

Without giving away the many plot complications, or Coward's clever way of resolving the dilemma, there are plenty of uncomfortable events and hilarious three-way conversations where the two wives vie for Charles's affection; and the inept maid Edith [Lindsay Sellers] plays an important role in the unravelling.

Coward's urbane wit is present on every page in the mouths of all his characters, and actors must speak his glittering fast-paced dialogue with the utmost confidence, making every bon mot seem easy and natural no matter how outrageous the situation.

Though there are some strong performances that elevate Coward's wit, there was a lot of hesitance delivering the lines and struggling to pick up cues; and some lines were spoken so softly that they could not have been heard distinctly beyond the first row of the audience. -- The result unfortunately muddled much of the plot, character relationships, and clever turns of phrase, so much of the comedy fell flat. Too bad, since this company appeared to be committed to their roles.