- Contributing New Jersey Theatre Critic
Blithe Spirit, directed by Victoria Mack at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, is a classic play by Noël Coward that deals with the supernatural in a humorous way. The novelist Charles Condomine, invites the medium, the eccentric Madame Arcati, to his house to conduct a séance, hoping to gather material for his next book. Coward remarkably wrote the play in just six days. The play performed on the West End during World War II, providing audiences with much-needed escapism during this difficult time in history.
The set was elaborate with french doors leading to another set that represented the outside complete with foliage. A divine chandelier, a mantle over the marble fireplace, a table with four chairs, an elegant sofa, and a record player. This is the room, or parlour if you may, that every scene in Blithe Spirit takes place, complete with both humans and ghosts present. Michael Giannitti smartly used lighting in the outside set to show the passage of time from morning to night, and back again.
Brent Harris played the leading man, Charles, with both the duality of confidence and fickleness as changes are continually thrown at him throughout the play. I enjoyed seeing his character change as Charles comes to new opinions and realizations. Elvira, played by Susan Maris, was every bit otherworldly as needed and had great physical comedy as she ran around the stage in her beautiful dress (costume design by Hugh Hanson). Maris’s comedic timing with Ruth, played by Kate Maccluggage, stood out in the play as the two women bickered at each other. Madame Arcati, played by the very talented Tina Stafford, was a delight as she went into trances and jumped around (not quite sure what else to call it) in an effort to reach the “other side.” Another standout worth acknowledging is Bethany Kay as Edith, the always running, heavy on her feet, maid. Kay provided many laughs as she ran to get tasks done. While the part of Edith is rather small, it is a very important character to the plot and makes quite an impression throughout the play.
Blithe Spirit is indeed a jolly good play, done with quality at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey! I urge audiences to buy their tickets if they want to spend two hours enjoying themselves and probably an hour out of the two downright laughing in your seat. Blithe Spirit at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey opened August 15th and runs until September 2nd, 2018 at the F.M Kirby Shakespeare Theatre.