TR Robertson — There is nothing better than a cleverly constructed, well-acted, theatrical comedy and Solana Beach’s North County Repertory Theatre has opened their 37th Season with a classic, Sir Noel Peirce Coward’s “Blithe Spirit”. This light hearted comedy has wonderful back and forth banter between the leads and enough clever twists to keep the audience entertained during the almost 3 hour performance. The NC Rep comedy is directed by Rosina Reynolds.
“Blithe Spirit” was written by English playwright, composer, director, actor, singer and British Secret Service member, Noel Coward. Coward became known for his quick wit, humor and flamboyance. He received a Tony Award for lifetime achievement. The play was produced at the Manchester Opera House, London, in June 1941 and premiered in the West End at the Piccadilly Theatre in July 1941. The play would appear on Broadway at the Morosco Theatre in November of 1941. The comedy would be made into a movie in 1964 starring Rex Harrison.
Coward was not sure he would write or produce a comedy about ghosts as England was about to enter WW II, but the destruction of his own office and apartment during the Blitz, a get-away trip to Wales to recuperate, would lead to him writing and completing this comedy in just six days. The play would run for 1,997 consecutive performances in London, breaking box office records at West End, and would run for 650 performances on Broadway.
Photography by Aaron Rumley
The story revolves around a pompous novelist, Charles Condomine, and his 2nd wife, Ruth. Charles has remarried, after the death of his first wife, Elvira. Charles has asked his wife to invite an eccentric clairvoyant, Madame Arcati, to their home to allow him to gain background information to use in a novel he is writing. Ruth also invites friends Dr. and Mrs. Bradman. The séance appears to have been unsuccessful, but Charles soon realizes things are not as they once were as the ghost of Elvira appears and only Charles can see her. This will cause havoc in the once calmly boring household. Ruth doesn’t believe Charles as she cannot hear or see Elvira, causing more calamity. One thing leads to another and Madame Arcati is recalled, several times. Mystery surrounds how Elvira has arrived and Elvira becomes more and more mischievous, with less than nice reasons to hang around, possibly threatening the lives of Ruth and Charles. Without giving too much away, the play will have a number of twists and turns at the end, and by the way, the maid, Edith, will play a major roll, bringing things to a close. A classic Noel Coward ending will finish off this very funny comedy.
This quick paced comedy needs experienced, veteran actors and actresses to handle the “wordy” script and Director Rosina Reynolds and her creative team have assembled a cast extremely capable of handling the script and story. Playing Charles Condomine is J. Todd Adams, presenting the arrogant Charles with both class, and when things unravel, chaotic clarity. This is Adams NC Rep debut. Playing his wife, Ruth, is Joanna Strapp, making a return to NC Rep, last performing in “Fallen Angels”. Strapp has performed in numerous theatrical and television productions. Her presentation of Ruth as the pushy, controlling wife, who implodes when Charles begins seeing Elvira, is outstanding. The ghostly, first wife, Elvira, who doesn’t appear until about halfway through Act I, is played by Teagan Rose, also making her NC Rep Debut. As Elvira, Rose presents her with a simplistic, graceful elegance. As the play goes on, you begin to see the change Elvira is going thorough and they are not for the best.
NC Rep veteran Susan Denaker brings an outstanding, over-the-top performance to her presentation of Madame Arcati, the eccentric clairvoyant whose incantations begin the mess that will surround the Condomine’s lives. Playing friends, the Bradman’s, are Gil Berry and Ava Burton, making her NC Rep debut. One of the audience favorites, for the evening, was Michelle Marie Trester, playing housekeeper, Edith. Trester has only a few lines for the comedy, but her slow motion entrances onto the stage, usually carrying trays full of items and her quick exits always brought laughter to the audience. Trester has appeared in numerous San Diego County productions and her performance of Edith marks her NC Rep debut.
Reynolds Creative Staff included Scenic Designer Marty Burnett, Lighting Designer Matthew Novotony, Costume Designer Elisa Benzoni, Prop Designer Holly Gillard, Hair & Wig Designer Peter Herman, Dialect Coach Jillian Frost and Stage Manager & Sound Designer Aaron Rumley.
This is a funny, classic comedy well worth an evening out at the theatre. “Blithe Spirit” will run until Sept. 30 at North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive. Ticket prices range from $42 to $53 and can be purchased at 858-481-1055 or www.norothcoastrep.org.
Next up for NC Rep will be the mystery “Holmes & Watson” beginning October 17th.