Theatre review: Blithe Spirit

Stills from the haunting and hilarious Western Canada Theatre production Blithe Spirit. (Stephen Wild/Western Canada Theatre)

Stills from the haunting and hilarious Western Canada Theatre production Blithe Spirit. (Stephen Wild/Western Canada Theatre)

Straight from the stages of Ontario comes a ghostly comedy production perfect for the month of October. From playwright Noël Coward, this 1920s comedy is given a classic, yet hilarious, interpretation.

The play follows the misadventures of the wealthy Charles and his new wife Ruth, after the spirit of his first wife comes back from the dead. The simple living room set is used in great effect to infuse laughter for the majority of its run time, while providing various opportunities for each of the cast members to shine.

Charles Condomine played by Stephen Gartner, is a man who has found a new love after the passing of his young first wife Elvira. Unfortunately, he is the only person able to see the ghost of his former lover, providing the actors many hysterical instances to switch from casual conversation to horrific confusion in a matter of seconds. Elvira is back from the land of the dead and wishes to take Mr. Condomine for herself, believing that Ruth is an unfit wife for him.

The rest of the cast works well to immerse the audience in Elvira’s translucency. With Anita Wittenberg as Madame Arcati, a psychic hired by Mr. Condomine for inspiration for his new book, Wittenberg steals the show. She draws the audience in with her unusual electricity that lures them in with her bonkers attitude and love of cucumber sandwiches. Becoming one of the best running gags came with her inability to fully understand the rituals she was regularly performing, leaving most of the consequences up to everyone else.

Coward’s script does end up dragging in the first half of the show as the setup becomes finalized and the characters get ready to jump into the comedy material. The second act serves as an almost non-stop equally funny and witty climax that allowed for some genuinely surprising dark humour. The blocking and direction were all well done by Ashlie Corcoran, fully using the one set by incorporating objects and pieces of furniture that fit the aesthetics of the century.

One of the many glowing performances to arrive from this production is the part of Edith played by Kelsey Gilker. Her almost mime-like performance as the Condomine’s server became the heart of the laughs as each of her scenes gained momentum.

Blithe Spirit is Western Canada Theatre’s second show of the season, and was produced in association with Thousand Island Playhouse. The production will run until Oct. 15 with a pay-what-you-can matinée on Saturday. The student price for tickets is $19 each.