Incline’s Blithe Spirit is Supernaturally Sublime

Review by Laurel Humes of Blithe Spirit: Incline Theatre

Lift your spirits for a couple of hours by sharing them with the ghosts in Blithe Spirit, the venerable Noel Coward comedy now onstage at Warsaw Federal Incline Theater.

This must be said first: Even if the actors just did a costume style show on the set, it would be worth a trip to the theater. Costume and properties designer Caren Brady and set designer Brett Bowling have captured the elegant look of upper-class British society in the early 1940’s.

The expansive, lovely drawing room setting is filled with period furniture and props – French doors, book-filled shelves, artwork, a gramophone. Not just decorative; all will become part of the plot.

And it’s a fun plot, full of Coward’s sardonic wit. Novelist Charles Condomine (Matt Krieg) was married to Elvira before she died seven years ago (even the cause of death is humorous). Charles is now married to Ruth (Grace Eichler). He is researching séances for a book, when clairvoyant Madame Arcati (Traci Taylor) calls up the ghost of Elvira (Kayla Burress).

Only Charles can see and hear Elvira, which sets up hilarious situations of misunderstanding as he reacts and Ruth thinks he’s crazy – until Elvira makes herself known to Ruth, too. That’s Act 1; several more twists fill out the comedy.

Coward was quoted about these characters he created: “You can’t sympathize with any of them.” And the actors have a great time bringing these self-centered, high-mannered folks to life.

Well, Elvira is not technically alive, when she returns as a lively ghost. “I’ve passed over,” Elvira insists. “It’s vulgar to say dead where I come from.”

Burress is ghostly but beautiful in pale makeup, hair and gown. Her presence is enhanced by Denny Reed’s eerie lighting. Apparently, Elvira the ghost is pretty much the same as Elvira the woman. Burress plays her free-spirited and fun-loving, but also petulant, pouty and childish. You wouldn’t want to live with her.

Ruth certainly doesn’t want to share her house and husband with Elvira. Eichler’s Ruth is dignified and self-assured in her elegant gowns and home. She tries to be the voice of reason – but these circumstances are most unreasonable.

“I haven’t the faintest idea how to send her back,” Madame Arcati admits when Ruth pleads with her to get rid of Elvira. Besides, the medium is still crowing over her success in conjuring Elvira.

Taylor makes a fine Madame Arcati – sparkling, lively and eccentric – aided by flowing costumes that accommodate her physical comedy.

With all the effort to send Elvira back to the “other side,” it is not clear that Charles wants to. Krieg plays the two-wife husband just short of whining and very long on ego when dealing with the women; he’ll take flattery from whoever gives it.

Krieg and Burress’ best scene, though, is a fiercely funny squabble about their marriage. Director Bob Brunner has almost choreographed the back-and-forth accusations and answers with great pace and timing.

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