Theatre Mirror Reviews-"Blithe Spirit"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2015 by Tony Annicone

"Blithe Spirit"

A Review by Tony Annicone

Providence College Theatre Department's current show is "Blithe Spirit", a farce by Noel Coward. This show focuses around the paranormal experience of Charles Condomine, a novelist and socialite of Kent, England. In search of inspiration for his new novel, Charles hires an eccentric medium for research purposes, and ends up in contact with the spirit of his first wife, Elvira, who makes her presence known, much to the dismay of his second wife, Ruth. Add their doctor and his wife as well as a dippy, half-witted maid to the ingredients of this farce. At the time Coward wrote this play in 1941, England was in the grip of the second World War, and death was not a humorous topic. Nonetheless, Coward had been planning for a while to write a play about ghosts, and when he finished it, he commented without modesty that "I knew it was witty, I knew it was well constructed, and I also knew it would be a success." "Blithe Spirit" has been a success both on stage and on screen, with television, radio and musical adaptations, celebrating its outrageous attitude toward death with the famous Noel Coward humor.Director Casey Seymour Kim picks seven topnotch student performers to play these seven madcap roles and they deliver the laughs in spades all night long.

Casey is a comic genius actress and she displays her expert comic touches in this show. She is aided in her task by scenic designer, Sara Ossana and the gorgeous 1940's costumes by David Costa Cabral. Jen Rock's lighting effects for the seance and for the ghosts is terrific, too. The set is an important ingredient in this show because it is rigged to fall apart when Charles leaves the house at the end of the show. Playing the lead role of Charles Condomine is Justin Maloney who not only delivers his lines with an impeccable British accent but delivers his over 700 lines excellently, too. He excels at playing this enormous role, capturing the essence of a well respected author. Justin has a lot of chemistry with his cast members, delivers his lines with high energy and finesse. He commands the stage in this role.

Jennifer Dorn does a wonderful job as the worried and put upon second wife, Ruth, who gets caught up in Elvira's web of deceit. Her wonderful British accent and biting delivery is well done in this difficult role. As Ruth, she must contend with Elvira's crazy antics, Charles' strange behavior and Madame Arcati's wacky tantrums. Jennifer makes the audience empathize with Ruth's predicament. Katrina Pavao plays the mischievous and seductive siren fabulously. She is clad in a gray negligee, wears a gray wig and has bright red lipstick on. She oozes sex appeal as she returns to claim Charles as her own. Elvira breaks a vase, turns on the gramophone and loves scaring Ruth who can't see her. Katrina is ethereal and is perfect for this role. She gives the audience many laughs at her wild and crazy antics. One of her funniest lines is "Tell the silly old biddy to mind her own business."

The biggest scene stealer in this show is Tanner Henry in drag as Madame Arcati. He wins many laughs during his scenes. Is Madame Arcati a physhic or not?  Tanner screams, yells, faints and conducts seances to help Charles get rid of Elvira.He has many funny lines and makes them all hit pay dirt. Arcati's entrances and exits through the wrong doors is a hoot. Jonathan Coppe and Mary Reagan play Dr. and Mrs. Bradman who witness the first seance when Elvira comes back to life. They deliver energetic performances as this bickering couple at the seance and are hilarious in the second act when she describes the servants leaving like rats on a sinking ship and he mimics Charles' bedroom antics with Elvira. Courtney Olenzak plays the scatterbrained maid, Edith. She runs constantly back and forth to the kitchen and to answer the door. displays a strong Cockney accent and her funny walk is a hoot. She and Justin have a funny bit when he comments on how she and the cook are doing. It brings back happy memories for me, having directed in back in 1981 and 2006. So for a delightful trip back to the 1940's, be sure to catch "Blithe Spirit" at Providence College.

"Blithe Spirit" (27 March - 12 April)
@ Angells Blackfriars Theatre, Smith Center for The Arts, Eaton Street, PROVIDENCE RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide