When Nöel Coward’s BLITHE SPIRIT, an escapist comedy, opened on London’s West End in 1941 it was well received and set British box office records. The play ran for 1,997 performances, a record for non-musical plays that wasn’t broken until THE MOUSETRAP surpassed it in 1957.
BLITHE SPIRIT is set in 1941 in Kent, a county in South East England. Set in a ‘well to do’ household, the rules of the old aristocracy still reign supreme, in fact, the dialogue in BLITHE SPIRIT is a hilarious, cardiovascular exercise in aristocratical, proper ‘King’s English’ vernacular. The script is fast moving, never let’s you rest and gets funnier as the show goes on.
Director, and Producing Artistic Director Charles Fee has assembled a rock-star cast for this classic play. The first big laugh’s hit right at the opening curtain when we meet Edith the maid, played by GLT regular Jodi Dominick. Even with limited dialogue, Dominick manages to grab huge reactions from the crowd. The story centers around married couple Ruth (Maggie Kettering) and Charles (Eric Damon Smith). Charles invites psychic medium Madame Arcati (Laurie Birmingham) to their home to perform a séance, for research on a book he is writing. Charles gets more than he bargained for when the ghost of his ex wife Elvira (Shanara Gabriel), shows up to wreak havoc!
Kettering and Smith have several hilarious, quippy, arguments during the show that will have you laughing out loud, and Gabriel is a perfect choice for the mischievous ghost Elvira. The real stand out, for me, is Laurie Birmingham. She is completely convincing in her role as the, possibly crazy, psychic medium. She is hilarious, talented and really holds the show together. Birmingham is unforgettable!
Divided into three acts, a Nöel Coward trademark, BLITHE SPIRIT is more than just a play, it is a fast-moving event. A social-gathering, full of breaks for a trip to the bar. But make sure you get to the bar immediately at the start of the intermissions as you will get turned away, regardless of how long you’ve been in line, when the next act starts. For me it was 10 minutes in line, and the curtain raised on Act 2 right as I got to the front. I was less than pleased. My liver, however, appreciated the break.
All three acts offer their own plot-twists and intrigue, and when the curtain falls on Act 3, you’ll hardly notice how long you’ve been at the theatre. BLITHE SPIRIT is loaded with fast-talking, intelligent humor, intrigue, mystery, cool staging and fun special effects. Nöel Coward once performed in the historic Hanna Theatre, maybe his presence is contributing to this ghostly comedy’s success. BLITHE SPIRIT is a must-see, but it crosses back over on March 10th, grab tickets at GreatLakesTheater.org!