Nancy Sasso Janis
- Connecticut Critic
- Connecticut Critics Circle
Monroe, CT - ‘Blithe Spirit’ by Noel Coward has the ring of an ethereal Halloween show and the production by Two Planks Theater Company has just right amount of spookiness and high brow comedy. Two Planks’ Artistic Director David Halliwell directed the first show of the season for adults to enjoy during the Halloween season; Rob Primorac served as technical director and designed the perfect lighting, while Brooke Burling and Janice Gabriel, the show’s producers, both welcomed me to the penultimate performance at The United Methodist Church of Monroe.
So the comic play has novelist Charles Condomine inviting the very eccentric medium Madame Arcati to his elegant home to conduct a seance, hoping to gather material for his next book. After the seance, the ghost of Charles’ temperamental first wife appears only to him and begins to make attempts to disrupt his marriage to his overbearing second wife Ruth.
Everyone in the cast did well with their respective well-drawn characters. Bob Filipowich, who won the 2015 OnStage Critics Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical for playing Steven Kodaly in Wilton Playshop’s ‘She Loves Me,’ led the cast in the role of Charles. Susan Kulp made her Two Planks debut in the role of his current wife Ruth. Ms. Kulp is a founding member of The Shadowland Theater in Ellenville NY, as is her husband George. Mr. Kulp took on the role of the suave Dr. Bradman in his Two Planks debut; the actor appeared on one of my favorite soaps, ABC’s ‘Ryan’s Hope,’ in the principal role of Hal Turner.
Gillian Bailey, in her local stage debut, floated about as the petulant ghost of Elvira (pronounced el-veer-ah) in a blond wig styled a la Marilyn Monroe. Jennifer Sokira, who was last seen as Tessie Tura in Two Planks’ ‘Gyspy’ this summer, was the wife of Dr. Bradman. Jean Budney also made her Two Planks debut as what she calls the “iconic Madame Arcati” and was a hoot. Jessica Nivison, a ninth grade student at Masuk HS, appeared older as the Condomine’s new maid Edith. Muriel Bailey provided a ghostly offstage voice.
The set of Mr. Burling was easy to look at and had all the bells and whistles needed to produce the ghostly action, although one book fell in the wrong act. The costumes designed by Meg Jones were both lush and period perfect. From the dreamy white chiffon of the the ghost to the evening clothes of the mortals, every costume change was a work of art.
‘Blithe Spirit’ closes on Oct. 30 with a matinee at 5:00pm. Coming up at Two Planks will be ‘La Cage aux Folles’ and Neil Simon’s ‘The Odd Couple.’ Two Planks is celebrating the fact that Monroe’s First Selectman Steve Vavrek has initiated an effort to construct an outdoor performance venue that will become their summer home in nearby Wolfe Park. The Arts & Culture Council is lending its support and the Women’s Club is allocating its annual fundraising efforts towards the effort as well. Kudos to Monroe for supporting this relatively new theatre company in bringing theatre to their beautiful town.
Photo by Two Planks Theater Company