note:entire contents copyright 1995 by Larry Stark
REVIEW note: Entire contents copyright 1995 by Larry Stark "Blithe Spirit" by Noel Coward Directed by Terrell McSweeny; Set Designer Lara Ho; Light Designer Mark O'Maley; Sound Designer Mark Risher; Produced by Megan Matthews for the Harvard/Radcliffe Dramatic Club C A S T Edward..........................Daniel J. Goor Ruth Condomine...................Alexis Susman Charles Condomine.............Michael H. Schur Dr. George Bradman.................Danton Char Violet Bradman................Jordanna Brodsky Madame Arcati..............Rebecca R. Kirshner Elvira Condomine...............Christina Voros
Although Noel Coward's plays are not exclusively about style, this intelligent undergraduate production succeeds by concentrating on the look of things. From the fluted curves of martini glasses to the long, simple lines of a night-dress or the baggy tweeds of a family doctor, everything's been aptly, precisely chosen. And one might say the same for the actors, who look born and bred to fill precisely the roles they play.
As Elvira, the ghost of Charles Condomine's first wife, for instance, Christina Voros' languid, self-confident sensuality is all soft curves and fluid motion. She contrasts beautifully with Alexis Susman as Condomine's current wife, whose angular, near-hysterical intellect duels with an adversary she can neither hear nor see. Their scenes with Michael H. Schur as their common husband, and with one another, crackle with this spirited contrast. It's a credit to Director Terrell McSweeny that none of these feisty characters step on one another's "moments" nor steal scenes they don't genuinely deserve.
The only major disadvantage the cast cannot circumvent is age. Michael Schur is not a thirty-something novelist with a wife seven years dead, and he handles her unexpected re-emergence with less self-control and more tension. Still, he trusts the text and understands the predicament, and Coward is well-served.
Similarly, from the carmined lips of a tall, lithely energetic undergraduate, Madame Arcati's line "I've been a professional medium since I was a child!" falls differently than it did from the mouth of elderly Margaret Rutherford. For age Rebecca R. Kirshner substitutes vigor. Her darting, expressive eyebrows are nearly as prehensile as her blood-red fingernails, and she must keep a bright tiger-striped blouse tightly buttonned within the brown wool of a severely cut jacket to repress her restless energy.
As Doctor and Mrs. Bradman, Danton Char and Jordanna Brodsky are reduced, by the script, to a handful of mannerisms --- but well-chosen mannerisms. Her nervous simper and his henpecked resignation emerge as much from their line-readings as from their postures.
And first, last, and not least is Daniel J. Goor's over- eager apprentice butler, whose unconscious affinity for spirits gives him an unexpected scene ripe for his wide-eyed pilferage.
In front of a backdrop lit by Mark O'Maley in brilliant blue, Lara Ho's precisely built village drawing-room is as elegantly detailed as the performances. A set of french-doors, a window and a picture-frame hung in empty space define the room's non-existent back wall --- a "wall" through which Elvira's ghost steps at her first entrance. This sort of deft, intelligently chosen detail everywhere in this production proves that theater is alive, well, and eagerly confident in Cambridge this Hallowe'en week.