The current show at Company Theatre is Noel Coward's 1940 comedy, "Blithe Spirit". The show was written to take Britain's mind off the bombing of their country by the German air force during World War II. It is an otherworldly comedy about urbane writer, Charles Condomine and his playfully sarcastic second wife, Ruth. Charles invites an eccentric medium, Madame Arcati to his home to conduct a seance, in an effort to expose her as a fake. When Madame Arcati accidentally causes Charles' dead first wife, Elvira to materialize, havoc ensues, as Elvira decides she wants Charles back causing a battle of will and wits with Ruth. Add their doctor and his wife as well as a dippy, half-witted maid to the mix and you have the ingredients for this hilarious show. Director Steve Dooner chooses the best performers for these 7 roles and they deliver the laughs in spades all night long.
Steve cuts the show down by 20 pages so modern day audiences can enjoy the fast paced humor readily. The set is an important ingredient in this show because it is rigged to fall apart when Charles leaves at the end of the show and it is a very impressive moment indeed. The set is designed by Zoe Bradford, the gorgeous costumes are by Jen Spagone especially impressive are the blue outfits worn by the ghosts and the expert lighting design is by Michael Clark Wonson. ( The lighting effects on the ghosts, the lightning and the overall look of the show is spectacular.) Playing the lead role of Charles Condomine is Matthew Murphy who not only has an impeccable British accent but delivers his 700 lines expertly. He does a magnificent job in this enormous role, capturing the essence of this middle aged writer wonderfully. His high energy and acting prowess pours forth out into the audience, making them appreciate his outstanding performance in this difficult role. Nancy Finn does an excellent job as the worried and put upon second wife, Ruth who gets caught in Elvira's web of deceit. Her wonderful British accent and her biting delivery of her lines make her stand out in this role. Ruth must contend with Elvira's crazy antics, Charles' strange behavior and Madame Arcati's wacky tantrums. Nancy handles the part with ease, making the audience empathize for her predicament. Jennifer Duval White plays the mischievous and seductive siren, Elvira clad in a light blue negligee and looks like Veronica Lake. She oozes sex appeal as she returns to claim Charles as her own. Elvira break a vase, turns on the gramophone and loves scaring Ruth who can't see her. Jennifer is ethereal and perfect for this role. She gives the audience many laughs at her wild and crazy antics.Her funniest line is "Tell the nosy old bitch to mind her own business."
The biggest scene stealer in this show is Karen Wadland as Madame Arcati. She wins applause after all her scenes. Is Madame Arcati a psychic or isn't she? Karen screams, yells, faints and conducts seance's to help Charles get rid of Elvira. She crawls around on the floor in the first scene and comes to the seance table on her knees pretending to be Daphne which is hilarious. Karen has many funny lines and she delivers them humorously, winning her the accolades of the crowd. Jeff Phillips and Juliana Dennis play Dr. and Mrs. Bradman who witness the first seance when Elvira comes back to life. They deliver energetic performances and provide many laughs as this bickering couple at the seance. Jessy Rowe who is only 16 years old, plays the scatter brained maid, Edith who constantly runs back and forth to the kitchen and to answer the door. She shows off a topnotch Cockney accent and a strong singing voice near the end of the show. Jessy and Matthew have a very comic scene in this part of the show, too. ( I first reviewed Jessy as the little girl in "Ragtime" at Company Theatre in 2003. It brings back many happy memories for me, having directed it back in 1981 and 2006. So for a trip back to the 1940's, be sure to catch "Blithe Spirit" at Company Theatre.