by Roxy Orcutt From the moment I laid eyes on the promotional artwork for Lyric Arts’ production of Blithe Spirit this past summer (a Ouija board with the planchette hovering over “Yes”), I was sold. A comedic ghost story? Was this play written just for me? I couldn’t believe I had to wait until January to experience this show, but last night I finally had my opportunity, and it was phenomenal.
Blithe Spirit centers on a writer named Charles Condomine in early-1940’s England. Charles invites a well-known medium, Madame Arcati, over to his home he shares with his second wife, Ruth, for a séance in order to conduct research for his upcoming novel. The Condomines, along with their friends, Dr. and Mrs. Bradman, expect nothing more than a laugh from the eccentric Madame Arcati. Turns out, while Madam Arcati may not be the realest of the real deals, she still manages to successfully conjure up the spirit of Charles’s long-dead first wife Elvira, who only Charles can see, and is eager to win back her spot as the original Mrs. Condomine.
The cast couldn't have been more perfect. Ryan Nielson had the tricky job of portraying Charles Condomine, on one hand, a somewhat callous, egotistical and occasionally preening character, and on the other, a frazzled, conflicted man who really only wants to do right by both his wives, living and dead. Ryan walked this line with perfection, delivering not only on the love-to-hate-him moments, but also hitting the more sympathetic notes flawlessly as well.
Jessica Scott, who portrays Charles’s current and very much alive wife Ruth, was outstanding. Jessica’s comedic timing and facial expressions received some of the biggest laughs of the night, along with her ability to act with and around someone she isn't able to see in her scenes with Elvira was nothing short of masterful.
Like the titular blithe spirit, in breezes our ghost, Elvira partway through the first act. Allie Munson moved like an otherworldly, ethereal creature, even when she was arguing with Charles’s or attempting to make Ruth’s life difficult, she never once transformed physically back into the land of the living, always seeming to glide across the stage in the most spirited of ways.
The moments Grif Sadow’s Madame Arcati was on the stage the audience could hardly contain their laughter. Carrying on about her bicycle, Ovaltine and conducting séances in the most unusual of ways (which included some killer dance moves), Madame Arcati's eccentricities were rivaled only by Hannah Weinberg’s portrayal of Edith, the Condomines' intense servant, who has one of the funniest moments in the entire show, involving toast, a serving tray and a bell.
The cast not only stood out individually, they also moved beautifully together in the more physically demanding comedic scenes. Pratfalls, choreographed arguments and an honest-to-goodness spit all make an appearance in Blithe Spirit, but the way this cast handled these traditional physical comedy moments was an absolute blast.
I wanted to wrap up my review with a comment on the costuming. I could write another 500 words on how beautiful the pieces were, how gorgeous everyone looked, what talent and hard work must have gone into creating the costumes, but I will just say this to the Lyric Arts’ costume department; if any of Ruth Condomine’s or Violet Bradman’s dresses disappear, don’t look in my direction.
I am already planning on seeing Blithe Spirit again. I’m having a hard time deciding who I should take with me because I feel this show is something truly anyone can, and will enjoy, and best of all, Blithe Spirit leaves you feeling like you’re walking on air.
Roxy Orcutt, The Halloween Honey, is a local author and theater enthusiast. Her book, “History and Hauntings of the Halloween Capital,” explores Anoka, MN, its spooky tales, colorful characters, and why it is named the “Halloween Capital of the World.” It is available for sale online at www.HalloweenHoney.com.