|They don’t write plays like they used to…and that is perfectly fine. But boy oh boy, is it worth seeing a classic from time to time, or perhaps, (depending on your personal tastes and general nerdiness) on a regular basis. I can’t think of a theatre company in Los Angeles that mounts the classics consistently better than A Noise Within. They don’t disappoint with their current production of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit on stage now, in rep, through December 17th.
This sweet comedy with a slight dark side is too fun to resist. The story tells the tale of author Charles Condomine (played by Scott Lowell) and stuffy, straight-laced second wife, Ruth (played by Jill Van Velzer), who host a party with a guest clairvoyant, Madame Arcati (played by Jane Macfie). She was invited to entertain, as well as for research purposes for his upcoming book. They invite the company of friends, Dr. Brandman and Mrs. Bradman (Gibby Brand and Jacque Lynn Colton) to join in the goofy fun. Much to Charles’ surprise (and possibly even more shocking to Madame Arcati), the spiritualist summons the lusty Elvira (played by Abby Craden) first wife of Charles who passed away several years prior… who couldn’t be more different than the current wife. Elvira just-so-happens to be visible only to her former husband. Trouble, chaos, sprinkled with fun (depending on who’s perspective… certainly for the audience) endues.
This show gracefully falls in what I would call the “theatre of escape” club. This, the case in 1941 when the show premiered during Nazi bombing in dark days of WWII, London… and still true in shaky economic times in current day, Los Angeles. There is no hint of war (and the uneasiness that brings) to be found in the 2 ½ hour play. There are only smiles and laughs for audiences… then and now.
It’s awfully nice to see Damaso Rodriguez leading the helm as Director of this delightful production. You may know him; at least I do, as co-artistic Director of the Furious Theatre Company. I’m a big fan, and you might as well hop on the bandwagon. The pacing is impeccable and the staging was lovely on the sometimes tricky but oh, so fun thrust stage. The set design (Kurt Boetcher) only enhanced the experience of escape and laughter… which is a feat, considering this show runs in rep with 2 other shows. Lighting (James P. Taylor) and sound (Doug Newell, Zipline Sound) were solid. Costumes were delightful (E.B. Brooks), for all characters, with the exception of Madame Arcati. Her wardrobe bothered and distracted me each and every time she was on stage.
The entire cast was delightful. The remaining cast member, I have yet to mention, was the maid, Edith (played by Alison Elliott). The smallest and perhaps thankless role, yes… but all actors could learn a thing or two from witnessing her impeccable comedic timing. She was a total crack up, and deserves recognition for it. Other obligatory nit picky thoughts, in addition to the aforementioned Madam Arcati wardrobe disaster were moments of prop hell (Charles, in particular, struggled with in the first act). It was a distraction, poor Scott Lowell. It also seemed Mr. Lowell took a bit to warm up until he was fully into character. It may have been simply been due to the “prop hell” situation, in which he quickly turned around and won me over for the remainder of the evening.
If this holiday season has you hoping for a run in with a ghost other than the traditional Christmas Past, Present, and Future… search no more. Blithe Spirit provides an amusing evening of classic Noel Coward theatre. Just be ready to indulge/combat the inevitable craving for a smoke and a dry martini immediately following the show.
A Noise Within