Anyone who has enjoyed the many performances of Lenore Sebastian over the years will want to be sure to get tickets to see her as Madame Arcati in the Woodland Opera House production of Noel Coward’s ghostly comedy, “Blithe Spirit.” It may be one of her best performances.
Thanks to direction by Robert Cooner, costuming by Denise Miles and Sebastian’s magnificent inhabiting of the character, she has brought the eccentric medium to life delightfully.
Madame Arcati is brought to the home of Charles (Matthew Abergel) and Ruth (Patricia Glass) Condomine, to perform a seance for them and their guests Dr. and Mrs. Bradman (Steve Mackay and Christine Deamer). Charles, a writer, needs material for a book he is writing about professional charlatans. All four think the seance will be great fun and laugh at the antics and gestures of Arcati.
All is great fun until Arcati somehow conjures up the spirit of Charles’ first wife, Elvira (Analise Langford-Clark), visible only to Charles.
Charles has a difficult time convincing his current wife, who thinks he just had too much to drink, until he finds a way to prove to her that Elvira is really there — he convinces her to move a few objects.
Arcati has to admit she doesn’t know how to send Elvira back to the other side, and Elvira is having a lovely time back in her old house, taunting Ruth, who can’t see her but realizes that she really is there.
What to do with two women you love, but who hate each other, both inhabiting the same house, only one of whom is actually living?
Abergel makes Charles a not-so-lovable egotistical novelist who is rather enjoying having both of his wives around. As the play continues, he becomes irritated with them both, but you can see he is enjoying the game.
Glass, as Ruth, while obviously in love with her husband, also has hen-pecked him. She is more interested in appearances and showing off her perfect home (great design by Don Zastoupil), serving the perfect martini and making fun of Madame Arcati.
A victim of Ruth’s need for perfection is the maid Edith (Rachel Tauner, last seen as Anne Frank in last year’s “Diary of Anne Frank.”), who is overwhelmed by her boss’ demands but can’t run to keep up because that bothers Ruth, too.
Deamer is what everyone might think of as an uppercrust British “dame,” (that’s a as in “ahh” not “ay”) but sadly, much of her dialog is lost in the very, very British accent. A little less accent would be oh-so-much better. One misses her half of some very witty conversation with Ruth.
Mackay has no such accent problem and is the solid doctor who takes charge when Arcati collapses during the seance.
There is a lot of humor in this classic play, but it also has a sting to it, as it examines the difficulties within a marriage and what causes the disintegration of both of Charles’ marriages.
All in all, this is an excellent play by the Woodland Opera House, which is worth seeing on its own — but especially to watch Sebastian’s performance.