Front Row Reviews

Blithe Spirit Ghostly Comedy Shines

Benicia Theatre Group resurrects Noel Coward’s charming comedy, “Blithe Spirit! What a wonderful timely enchanting gift to the Benicia community, and beyond, for their 60th year anniversary. 

We are first taken by Brian Hough’s exquisite four-piece set construction, crafted with artistic flair by the talented designer, Beate Bruhl. The walls are adorned with elegant hues of brown and maroon paisley wallpaper. Victorian period parlor furniture, accompanied by wall sconces, chandeliers, and a central table for séances, grace the two rooms.

Charming Charles Condomine, (versatile Matt Cardigan-Smith), is a novelist in the process of writing a paranormal book. With this his in mind, he invites a flighty medium, Madame Arcati, (delightful Donna Jeanne Turner), to conduct a séance for research purposes. Cardigan-Smith portrays Charles with aristocratic grace, and a hint of cunning.

Hilarious comedic dialogue ensues in an “Abbott and Costello-style.” The Conversations between playful Elvira, Charle’s ex-wife, and impatient Charles, are at the expense of defiant Ruth, his present wife, who believes his part of the conversation is directed to her! Wonderfully done scene, choregraphed by Director Clinton Vidal!

Elvira glides around the stage in her silvery skin adorned in a flowing silver gown. Madame Arcati delivers throaty, spooky effects supporting an erratic séance. She too, charms with fun-filled flighty dialogue and exaggerated dance movements, attempting to undo what she has created. But, she can’t. Will Elvira haunt Charles forever? Or will she grow bored and depart? But her frivolity wears thin. Whom does Charles truly love?

Bouncy quick-moving servant Edith, (energetic Brittany Kamershen), supplements the comedic insanity with her slap-stick entrances and exits. Edith engages in a humorous exchange with Ruth, at length, during séance preparations, reminiscent of Abbott and Costello’s iconic “Who’s on First.”

Scary special effects abound. Lighting designer, Tom Kvech, and Sound Board Operator, Veronica Bearce produce ghostly ambience. From poltergeist-flung books to flickering lights and tipping tables, every element adds to the spine-tingling experience.

The ensemble skillfully brings their characters to life, even in death, under the spot-on direction of Vidal, who maintains a light and playful tone throughout.

So, leave your worries behind and prepare to be swept away with laughter. “Blithe Spirit” shines brightly, offering a captivating theatrical event.

“Blithe Spirit” by Noel Coward, Directed by Clinton Vidal, at Benicia Theatre Group, Benicia, CA info: to May 12.

cast: Kelsey Bye, Brittany Kamershen, Patrick Kenny, Jenny Rastegar, Donna Jeanne Turner, Matt Cardigan-Smith, Paige Whitney

Top Photo: Ensamble, Photo by Michael Van Auken