Archikulture Digest

Blithe Spirit

Blithe Spirit

By Noel coward

Directed by Frank Hilgenberg

Starring Daniel Cooksley, Jamie-Lyn Hawkins, Kristen Collins

Theatre Downtown, Orlando Fla</strong>

There’s not a lot of laughs in this Noel Coward comedy about a man haunted by the ghost of his first wife. Charles Condomine (Cooksley) writes mystery novels and needs some background for his next opus, so he invites wacky spiritualist Madam Arcati (Cira Larkin) over to hold a séance. The result is the ghost of his first wife, Elvira (Collins) moving into the spare astral bedroom. It would have been best to leave her to rest in peace, as she stridently attacks the new marriage, and only Charles can see her. Wifey #2 Ruth (Hawkins) only hears Charles side of the conversation, and until a vase mystically floats across the room, she thinks Charles is either nuts or trying to drive here away. When Ruth accidently enters the spirit realm herself, Charles is haunted by both ghosts and his only hope lies in the old wives tale that ghosts can’t cross bodies of water. Hello, New York!

While Fran Hilgenberg’s set was gorgeous and the British accents met muster, the timing in this play was off just enough to kill most of the humor. Cooksley looked a bit stiff, as if he was focusing on the intonation and not the timing of the play, and Madam Arcati looked more like she was warming up for a welter weight bout instead of a spiritual encounter with the deceased. Energetic Edith (Barbara bell) was funnier as the eager-to-please housemaid that Ruth attempts to slow down, hoping to give the house a more upper class feel. Dr. Bradman (John Segers) and Mrs. Bradman (Marion Marsh) and were a good counter balance to the insanity of the wives, and were the skeptic and the believer regarding the spiritualism. Elvira spent most of her stage time walking with one arm holding an invisible cigarette holder, and when she and Ruth were both ectoplasmic, they swayed together in an odd dance that might have meant there were shimmering ghosts, or practicing for Chorus Line. That should have been a great sight gag, but somehow it failed. Hopefully, this elegant looking comedy will find its timing and turn into the fast paced frothiness that Coward excels at writing. All the parts are bolted together, but the engine needs a tune up.

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