BY PENNY WEBB
Whidbey Life Magazine contributor
Oct. 15, 2013
Noel Coward seems as contemporary as ever.
Whidbey Island Center for the Arts’ production of Coward’s classic “Blithe Spirit” is full of the sort of sexual politics and parlor room shenanigans that make the play raucous, and as relevant as ever. It seems the 1920’s have quite a bit in common with 2013, especially when it comes to the age-old power struggles of male-female relationships.
Make that struggle into a love triangle — in which one of the parties happens to be dead — and you’ve got a hauntingly good time on the boards for the evening!
Charles Condomine (Miles Harrison) is a widowed writer who has remarried a charmingly bossy widow named Ruth (Savannah True Randall). Their good-natured banter reflects a comfortable marriage, with colorful remembrances of Charles’ deceased wife Elvira (Kathryn Lynn), which don’t seem to ruffle Ruth’s feathers. But at a séance held for the amusement of friends, Elvira reveals herself to Charles in a ghostly form, and all manner of chaos ensues.
Though Charles is at first pleased to see his dead wife, and she him, over time the rough edges of their marriage surface once again. Tensions between dead wife and living wife emerge, and a struggle to return Elvira to the great beyond takes center stage. Madame Arcati (Gwen Jones), the medium responsible for Elvira’s return, is enlisted to attempt to usher her home and is all too happy to help. Things go awry, of course, and Charles is left to wonder if one can ever truly escape one’s past.
Director Phil Jordan coaxes both subtle and broad performances from his leads. Harrison rises to the occasion with a nuanced Charles. Randall’s Ruth is the epitome of elegance and grace, over smart and stubborn. Lynn’s Elvira is by turns mischievous and bored, with the sort of flighty energy one expects from a restless spirit. Jones’ physical comedy chops are on full display in her delightful, over-the-top performance as Madame Arcati.
Rounding out the cast are Dwight Zehm as the upstanding Dr. George Bradman, Susan Hanson as his charming wife Mrs. Bradman (making a fine stage debut), and Kathy Stanley as the overly-enthusiastic Edith. Last but not least, it’s hard to forget Jordan Schierbeek as the disembodied voice of Daphne.
First time set designer Deana Duncan uses all the stage and then some to bring the action up-close and personal in the cozy theater. Lighting (Ann Deacon) and sound (Alan Chalfant) add just the right level of spookiness, without turning the proceedings into a haunted house. Costume Designer Melanie Lowey has a wonderful time dressing the ladies, in particular the flamboyant Madame Arcati.
“Blithe Spirit” plays at 7:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 26 at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, 565 Camano Ave. in Langley. For tickets call 360-221-8268 or click here; WICA tickets.
For more information about WICA, visit the profile page on Whidbey Life Magazine.
Before the show, enjoy the WICA Fine Art Committee gallery in the lobby of the theater with art inspired by the theme of “spirits.” The show, titled “Illusions,” features works by Judith Burns, Richard Engstrom, Steve Marts, Sue Owen, Karen Schroeder, Deb Short, Mark Skullerud, Michael Stadler, Fara Wexler, Gaylen Whiteman and Jim Wills.
Penny Webb is a writer, musician, gardener and mom. She is currently getting her witch on.