Blithe Spirit – Theater Review
In Blithe Spirit, one of Coward’s biggest successes, novelist Charles Condomine, living with his second wife, Ruth, invites a local medium, Madame Arcati, to his house. His intention is to do some research into the spirit world for his new book. But he gets more than he bargained for when Arcati conjures up the ghost of Charles first wife, Elvira. Caught between one live wife and one dead wife — both jealous of the other — Charles thinks matters couldn’t be worse.
Noel Coward has always been a wit. The question is, is he a wit for our times or not? Well, the jury is out on “Blithe Spirit”. Rupert Everett, Christine Ebersole, and Jane Atkinson are uniformly talented and bring some life to the story of a man who’s haunted by his ex-wife. Angela Lansbery plays the medium, and it’s really Angela’s show. When she comes out, the audience goes wild, and when she inhales and exhales, they applaud, they laugh, and she is truly wonderful. She looks like she’s having a great time. But to a certain extent, she’s the only one who really looks like she does. This is a play that requires some degree of believability with the cast. And it might have worked better if the stage had been smaller, or they updated to the present. People who believe in talking to the dead are probably just as alive and well in the year 2009, as they would have been in the year 1949. So I don’t know why we needed to make it a period piece. I know it’s when Noel Coward wrote it. But to a certain extent, it made it lifeless. It made actors act, as opposed to connecting with each other, and with the audience. So Angela gets a four, the rest of the cast gets a two, and since there are more of them than there are of her, I think you’d have to make this a two. “Blithe Spirit” needed a lot more blitheness, a little bit more spirit, a little more Noel, a little less Coward.