Tuesday, October 12, 2010


(l-r) Scott Lowell (Charles Condomine) and Abby Craden (Elvira Condomine)
PHOTO CREDIT: Craig Schwartz

To be more British than Noel Coward would be a challenge if we are to believe the goings on in the Condomine household in Kent created by Coward in his 1941 epic, Blithe Spirit. The Condomines are ever so almost upper class. They have a household staff. The only one we really meet, Edith, the galumphing maid, played by the wonderful Alison Elliott (Geoff and Julia’s daughter) steals the show with every entrance and exit. Her parents must be proud. To carry on about Alison’s grace note to the play serves a double purpose. First, it may be Edith who represents us common folk and secondly, through her less than delicate business, she may subtly represent how we may feel about all of this pip pip folderol. Elliott’s work is practically all physical and worth the price of admission alone. She is also the most believable character in the show.

Though director Damaso Rodriguez has his cast well in hand, one note that some other ANW directors have yet to take and Rodriguez has not understood, however, is that the six or so feet upstage from the apron may be visible to anyone in an empty house, but for the audience sitting above the fourth row in the center section of the theater, it’s impossible to see action on the floor! But, I’m ahead of myself.

Charles Condomine (enthusiastic Scott Lowell) is a successful novelist doing research for a new book. He has invited the quirky medium, Madame Arcati (erratic Jane Macfie) to the home he shares with his second wife, the lovely Ruth (lovely, indeed, Jill Van Velzer). Charles’ first wife, Elvira (campy and vampy Abby Craden) has been dead for seven years. The current Condomines have been happily married for five. The banter as the couple awaits the arrival of Arcati is oh so Coward: Light and airy, cocktails and cigarettes. Edith announces visitors Dr. and Mrs. Bradman (blustery Gibby Brand and ever sweet Jacque Lynn Colton) who settle in for what may be a silly evening of summoning up spirits, Blithe and otherwise. The good doctor is a skeptic and then some.

Arcati’s arrival and the ensuing shenanigans summon Elvira back from the dead. Of course, only Charles can see her and the upshot is that it takes a while to understand that not only is Elvira back, but she’s very interested in having Charles join her. The romp that follows is typical high standard ANW fare with crisp performances (passing some lapses with Macfie who, from time to time, seems to be waiting her turn) culminating with surprises that should come as no surprise.

Coward’s snappy patter and oblique references to sex are charming and witty. The play, written in 1941 takes place in ’36, but makes no mention of any of the turmoil in Europe that had begun there then or the major world issues in ‘41. It’s a light romp which personifies what Coward said of himself, “I am England and England is me.” We hear his voice and experience these Brits through the eyes of a talented young man who spent his life extolling the virtues of his native land in theatre, film and music. Clever and fun, Blithe Spirit moves apace with an excellent scenic design by Kurt Boetcher, period costumes by E.B. Brooks and lights by James P. Taylor. Entre act music by Doug Newell has the feeling of the twenties and permeates the room.

Geoff Elliott’s curtain speech repeated opportunities for donors to contribute to the company’s expected new space in Pasadena next fall. Naming opportunities for donors for everything from seats to bathrooms are available. Donations are tax deductible and tours of the new space may be arranged for donors by calling the company at the number below.

A Noise Within
Brand Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91204
Tickets 818 240 0910 x1
$46 top
In Repertory with Measure for Measure
and Great Expectations (opening October 23, 2010)
Blithe Spirit closes on December 5, 2010

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