Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Blithe Spirit"

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entire contents copyright 2005 by Tony Annicone

"Blithe Spirit"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

URI's opening show of their season is Noel Coward's 1941 comedy, "Blithe Spirit". The show was written to take Britain's mind off the bombing of their country by the German air force. It is an otherworldly comedy about an urbane writer, Charles Condomine and his playfully sarcastic second wife, Ruth. Charles invites a local 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 desperately wants Charles back causing a battle of will and wits with Ruth. Throw in their doctor and his wife as well as a dippy half-witted maid and you have the ingredients for this comic show.

The show is directed by Alan Hawkridge who keeps this 3 act play in the 1940's, using music from that era and the gorgeous British home is by Luke Howard. The set is rigged to fall apart when Charles leaves his home for good and it is a very impressive moment indeed. Playing the leading role of Charles is Joe Short who not only has an impeccable British accent but delivers his 800 lines beautifully sounding like a young Rex Harrison or to some of the younger crowd sounds like Pierce Brosnan. Joe does a magnificent job in this enormous role, capturing the essence of this middle aged writer perfectly. His high energy and acting prowess pours forth out into the audience, making them appreciate this talented young man's outstanding performance in this very difficult role. Bravo on a job well done.

Heather Garfinkle 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. Heather handles the part with ease, making the audience feel sorry for her predicament. Haley Hanson plays the mischievous, Elvira clad in a gold lame evening gown and wearing a blonde wig making her look like Jean Harlow. She oozes sex as she returns to claim Charles as her own. She breaks a vase, turns on the gramophone and loves scaring Ruth who can't see her. Haley gives the audience many laughs at her crazy antics.

Lauren Ustaszewski is Madame Arcati who claims to be psychic but is she? She screams, yells, faints and conducts seances to help Charles get rid of Elvira. Dan DaCunha and Helen Brennan play Dr. and Mrs. Bradman who witness the first seance when Elvira comes back to life. Last but not least is Jillian Blevins as the scatter brained maid who constantly runs back and forth to the kitchen and to answer the door. She does a wonderful job in this comic role after playing the lead of Anne Frank last spring. So for a trip back to the 1940's, be sure to catch "Blithe Spirit" at URI.

"Blithe Spirit" (13 - 22 October)
Upper College Road, KINGSTON RI
1 (401) 874-5843

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide