(Cover Photo: The CAST of Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit,” at Theatre of Northeastern Connecticut at the Bradley Playhouse in Putnam, CT. through June 18, 2022. Photo courtesy of Patricia Verrill.)
Kevin T. Baldwin
"Comedy that could raise the dead..."
Written by Noël Coward
Directed by Nicholas Magrey
Cast Includes: Tara Golson, Barbara Schreier, Chris Erath, Jim Douglas, Jane Ellis, Sheila Harrington-Hughes, Marion "Sunny" Kirkham-Barbour, Sarah Oschmann
June 3, 4, 10, 11, 17 & 1 2022 at 7:30pm
June 5, 12 & 18 2022 at 2:00pm
The Bradley Playhouse, 30 Front Street, Putnam, CT 06260-1942
$22 (Adults)$18 (Students/Seniors)$18 (Veterans/ First Responders)
Theatre of Northeastern Connecticut at the Bradley Playhouse presents a fine, spirited performance of "Blithe Spirit" by Sir Noël Peirce Coward.
After a séance gone wrong, a writer must deal with the antics of his current wife as well as the menacing ghost of his first wife.
Author Charles Condomine (Chris Erath) lives in a beautiful home in Kent, England with his second wife, Ruth (Barbara Schreier).
The duo have friends Dr. Bradman and his wife (Jim Douglas and Jane Ellis) over for an evening of food and merriment. The entertainment is in the form of a séance conducted by the simply batty Madame Arcati (Marion "Sunny" Kirkham-Barbour).
The production, set in Kent, London in 1937, was performed by actors with a 'blend' of English accents - some were spot on and some...well, not so much. Yet this did not detract much from the overall lighthearted ambience of the show.
However, the night proves to be not all fun and games as Charles, unknown to the Madame Arcati, is having her conduct the séance as part of research for a new novel he is writing.
(Photo: Members of the CAST of "Blithe Spirit" presented by the Theatre of Northeastern Connecticut at the Bradley Playhouse, now playing in Putnam, CT. through June 18, 2022. Photo courtesy of Patricia Verrill.)
The séance is preceded by conversations between Charles and Ruth about Charles' long-dead first wife, Elvira (pronounced "Elveera" and played by Sarah Oschmann) who passed on seven years earlier.
As a result of the séance, though, Arcati actually revives the spirit of Elvira and this is where the iconic Coward tale really takes off.
The three-act play certainly comes across as a product of its bygone era and shows its age quite vividly.
Yet it still has a delightfully dry wit (if it were any drier the show would need to be renamed "Sahara") and a charm associated with watching an old black and white movie.
You just have to accept (although not necessarily condone) some of the content as being part and parcel of that pre-World War II era.
Charles' wives, as written in Coward's 80+ year-old tale, come across as culturally sophisticated but also quite immature, "catty" and "child-like."
Charles occasionally treats them as if they are spoiled children moreso than loving equal partners - so much so that, at times, we find ourselves actually yearning for his comeuppance for his autocratic, chauvinist pomposity.
As only Charles sees and interacts with her presence, Elvira wastes no time in causing mayhem between Charles and Ruth. These are some of the most humorous scenes in the show. Sarah Oschmann is thoroughly captivating as the mischievous spirit Elvira.
Under the capable direction of Nicholas Magrey, the increasing tension from the confrontational relationship between Elvira and Ruth, separated by an astral plane, lifts the humor to a new frenetic level.
While a long show, the pacing never once staggered. Chris Erath as Charles gave a skillful, highly accomplished performance which was crucial to help keep things on pace.
With the above in mind, there were, however, several prolonged dialogue 'gaps', particular in scenes with Madame Arcati, whose costume, which was supposed to seem 'eccentric,' seemed far more reminiscent of 1960's Woodstock than 1930's London.
Other than the garb for Arcati, the overall costuming was absolutely appropriate to the period.
At issue for the opening night performance, there were some technical gaffes for some of the timed sound cues which seemed to get worse as the night progressed. By the end of the show multiple misfires occurred with both lighting and sound cues.
Also at issue was a wobbly table used for the séance which seemed to remain wobbly throughout the remainder of the show.
Technical issues aside, the entire scenic design effort by Magrey and Jason Preston and the entire creative team provided for a magnificent set.
In the end, one cannot deny the enduring charm of the play, dated as some of the material might seem. It is the stellar performances which also make the play well worth seeing with plenty of laughs to recommend the show.
The show's approximate run time is three hours with two intermissions.
Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA)
COVID 19 PROTOCOLS:
Please contact the venue for latest information regarding mask/proof of vaccination protocols.
The Bradley Playhouse is a 117 year-old vaudeville theatre in the heart of the Putnam antiques and restaurant district in the “Quiet Corner” of Northeastern Connecticut. Since 1991, the Bradley Playhouse has been managed by the volunteers of The Theatre of Northeastern Connecticut, Inc. (TNECT).
TNECT produces eight main season shows per year and a number of special fundraising events for The Bradley Playhouse Restoration Fund. TNECT’s mission is to produce and sponsor quality theatre and entertainment for the residents of Northeastern Connecticut and the surrounding areas, to encourage the development of creativity through the support of local artists, and to support education and hands-on experience in the creation, direction, and production of theatre and the performing arts.
The Bradley Playhouse
30 Front Street
PO Box 71
Putnam, CT 06260-1942