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Blithe Spirit


There are many reasons to go see theatre.  There are equally as many reasons, I believe, that a theatre piece can be considered a success.  I, personally, lean toward theatre that changes the way I think, delights me and makes me laugh, that angers and challenges me…theatre that can answer the all important question, “So what?”

Blithe Spirit is currently the show du jour at the Ahmanson Theatre.  This classic Noel Coward play is rumored to have been written in less than a week (!) and premiered in 1941.  Coward labeled it an improbable farce, playing to audiences likely hoping to escape the horrors of World War II.  It ran for a long time.  It’s one of his best-known, best-loved plays.

I’ve seen Blithe Spirit before.  I am sure that I read it in college.  I probably have a copy of it on my bookshelf.  It’s cute, sweet, fun…on a good day.  But I don’t think we need to keep mounting this show.  Why is the Ahmanson re-telling the tale of Charles (Charles Edwards) the high society, martini-drinking author, who has a gathering with his wife Ruth (Charlotte Parry) to conduct a séance for research purposes on his upcoming book?  You probably know the rest of the story… while conducting the séance, the medium Madame Arcati mistakenly brings Charles’ deceased first wife Elvira (Jemima Rooper) to the house.  Only Charles and the audience can see her, which of course causes him to act very strangely in the eyes of the rest of the witnesses, saying and doing outlandish things. Elvira refuses to leave the house as she flirts and flounces about, intent on winning his affection yet again.  Charles is accused of being drunk and in the light of day a fight ensues with his current wife about the whole matter.  And it goes on…

Again, it’s definitely witty and sharp…Noel Coward is one of the greats for a reason.  There are plenty of darker themes tucked away in this delightful romp, allowing students of theatre to discuss and surmise what Harold Pinter might have aimed to highlight in the version he directed (a London revival… now that is a version I would have liked to see!) years ago.  Michael Blakemore’s production in the here and now, doesn’t push the envelope, that’s for sure…and doesn’t even consistently keep the banter clipping along.  Certainly an important thing to do in this type of show.

So, this is when I should tell you to save your precious time and hard earned dollars for a show that will be much more to your liking.  And I do have a recommendation.  You should absolutely go and see (wait for it…) Blithe Spirit at the Ahmanson.  You may be puzzled, and my set up wasn’t the greatest, but in all seriousness, you should.  Why?  Two words:  Angela Lansbury.  Ms. Lansbury’s Tony Award winning (2009) as Madame Arcati is every reason to buy the ticket and sit in the seat.  She’s hilarious, mesmerizing, and more than inspiring at the age of 89.  She steals the show in the best way possible.  I don’t mean to be morbid, but you never know when your last opportunity to see this legend may be.  She lives up to all the hype and more.  Think of it as an acting master class.  And the set (Simon Higlett), the costumes (Martin Pakledinaz), and the hilarious maid, Edith (Susan Louise O’Connor) will hold your attention during the times the lovely Ms. Lansbury is not gracing the stage.  You’ll be fine, go see it.


Ahmanson Theatre

135 N. Grand Ave. LA

8 pm Tuesdays-Fridays

2 & 8 pm Saturdays

1 & 6:30 pm Sundays (Call for exceptions.)

Thru Jan. 18th, $25 to $140

213-972-4400 or