The living cast of Blithe Spirit gets a surprise visitor (Elvira, played by Summer Hagen, right) from beyond.
You sometimes wonder what was going on in theaters in the age just before television. In London, enough British lords started marrying chorus girls to inspire a whole slew of P.G. Wodehouse characters, repertory theatre was still in in, and a good hit show as often as not had the same patrons coming back weekly to carouse and see the same show they’d seen the last time they hung out. A good example of the latter is Blithe Spirit, which opened on Saturday at the Old Log Theatre.
This play by Noël Coward opened in London in June of 1941, roughly one month after the end of the London Blitz. It then proceeded to run for 1,997 performances across three different London theatres – an even more impressive feat in a time when a few months were usually enough to pay back the show’s investment. This comedy was a welcome tonic to the already war-weary masses, a piece that people could enjoy time and time again as they waited for their favorite moments. But how well has the piece aged after almost 75 years?
Pretty well, as it turns out. There’s a lot of humor and situational comedy to be milked from these pages, and it comes out easily with some delightful haunted house tricks. (Do, however, get some coffee during intermission – Act 2 takes its time.) Jon Cranney’s direction is smooth and the cast apt, but Katherine Ferrand steals scene after scene as the bicycle-riding medium Madame Arcati; on opening night, audience members raved about her performance during intermission and after the show. The spiritually put-upon Charles Condomine (Sean Michael Dooley) is funny to watch as he plays the annoyed erudite to the T, but as soon as the séance begins it’s Madame Arcati’s show.
There are plenty of reasons why comedies aren’t written this way anymore, but for what it is Blithe Spirit is just as happy an evening as the ghost in its name. This haunting is a blast from the past and a very pleasant evening.
Basil was named one of Musical America's 30 Professionals of the Year in 2017.