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Blithe Spirit
a Comedy
CATEGORY : COMEDY
by Noel Coward

COMPANY : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
ID# 1238

SHOWING : May 20, 2005 - June 12, 2005

[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Charles Condomine turns his life inside out when he accidentally brings back the spirit of his mischievous first wife, Elvira, during a séance. With the help of medium Madame Arcati, Charles’ jealous second wife attempts to get rid of the intruding spirit in this comic farce.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Robert Egizio
Sound Design Dan Bauman
Lighting Design Amy Humes Lee
Production/Stage Manager Courtney Loner
Costume Design Jane C Uterhardt
Set/Scenic Design Chuck Welcome
Ruth Condomine Aimee Ariel
Edith Laine Binder
Elvira Amber Chaney
Charles Condomine Mark Gray
Dr. George Bradman Eric Miller
Violet Bradman Brenda Norbeck
Madame Arcati Mary Sittler
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

Just a few Notes . . .
by Mario
Saturday, May 21, 2005
NR
The Director, Robert Egizio can't really be faulted in casting from a pool of actors that he possibly knew from his days at Actor's Express, but in several instances it hurt him. I also had the sense in watching this that he over controlled his blocking and suffocated his actors from having the least amount of fun in what should have been a play filled with funny witty repartee. The actress playing Madame Arcati seemed to have the most difficulty presenting her lines and character and was apparently directed to adhere to the "bigger is better" style of acting.

Egizio's execution of Elvira was a puzzle to me as well, as his casting choice fell short in presenting Elvira's coquettish and flighty nature. A sad thumbs down also for her costume and makeup, Elvira is written to be a sexy apparition, unfortunately she appeared more like a corpse in a prim bridesmaids gown.

One directing gaffe I can't resist mentioning involved the maid. She completely upstaged the other actors in one scene by pouring and serving each of 4 cups of coffee with a deliberate intensity usually reserved for dismantling a soon to blow up atomic bomb. Lighten up, for god's sake. . .

OK, now that I've vented my spleen a bit, some good stuff. The quality and caliber of the actors were uniformly impressive, delivering their dialogue and movements crisply and precisely albeit a bit too disciplined. Having played his part once I can assure you that Mark Gray did a wonderful job with his lines. He made the scene where he is chatting gaily along while mixing dry martini's look deceptively effortless. Brenda Norbeck hit her character squarely on the mark as well. The lighting, sound and sets were also nicely executed.

I would have enjoyed the play more if I could have seen the actors have a little more fun with their roles and if their characters were a bit more fleshed out. There's also the possibility that I've compared Egizio's Elvira a bit too unfavorably with the actress I performed with once. Preview nerves could have been a factor here as well, so here's hoping that as the show hits its stride it will rise to the quality of it's performers. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Reply by Tim
This is a very strange review from someone who seems upset with the director. I saw the production and felt that it was excellent. The direction was well done and the actors were terific. I can't imagine a critique of "Blithe Spirit" without even a mention of Ruth one way or another. Ruth by the way, was superb: On point with her accent and mass quantities of dialogue. The chemistry between Charles, Ruth and Elvira was sharp and very funny, they are three professional actors that truly entertain. The production did the wit of Noel Coward justice, even creating additional and appropriate comic moments with well planned blocking and physical comedy.


Contrary to the reviewer's opinion, it was clear that the actors were having a blast as well as the audience. For me there was plenty of the "funny, witty repartee" that he saw lacking. I don't know what he'd have Elvira wear, as she is an apparation of a woman who is dead, perhaps it was for this reason that he thought she resembled a corpse. Elvira did a marvelous job in presenting the seductive and mischievous first wife of Charles. Since when does a reviewer pan the cast and then as an afterthought recognize that he was making a comparison to a different actor in a different show, not cited in the panning?


In his biggest moment of criticism, the writer points out the director's ultimate "gaffe," and reports falsely on the events to make his point. Someone who has played Charles Condomine should realize that there are only three ladies in for coffee in this offending scene. In fact, the scene was funny and well done. It was an example of a character "fleshing out" and having fun.


This review is repeatedly contradictory and changes the facts in making a feeble attempt to support itself. Don't listen to Mario, and see the show for yourself.

maybe his finger slipped and he hit the wrong number by Okely Dokely
Anyway, I saw little to no evidence of an axe to grind, and I thought Mario's comments were valuable for the most part. I actually applaud him for realizing he may be biased since he's been in the show before and he saw the preview, and chose not to rate this. I've reviewed a ton of shows I've been in before (never my own production, though). I've played Nicely-Nicely, Frank Butler, Seymour, Frankie, etc., and yet I've given all these corresponding shows ratings and have gone after them with both barrells blazing. He only went after them with about one.
by Mario
Thanks, Tim for the feedback. I can appreciate you have a different opinion and there's no point in arguing that. You're as entitled to yours as I am mine.

You are correct in that I was upset with the director because I expected a better show than I saw. I can only assume that with his extensive dance & choreography background he couldn't resist blocking the play as tightly as he did. This isn't always a bad thing, but there are times when you should trust your actors to know when to move on a line. With Elvira and Madame Arcotti in particular, there were times when their blocking seemed forced and akward.

We agree that the actors were terrific and in this and future reviews you'll never read me trashing an actor's performance. It's the director's responsibility to cast and prepare them, so if a play falls short I go for the director's jugular. . .

I don't know fabrics but the costume Elvira wore in my production was made of generous lengths of sheer flowing gauzy pastel fabrics that moved and shimmered when she walked. Plus I think from the context, the audience soon figures out she's dead, it's a poor choice to make her look ugly her entire time on stage.

Finally, I simply gave my reaction to the show, I didn't tell anyone not to see it. I think, as Okely did, anyone could read between the lines and decide for themselves if it was worth seeing, and especially, when. . .
Clearing the air... by popcornking
I appreciate Mario's pledge not to attack the actors. With that in mind, what I am about to write is done primarily as a defensive maneuver, for all of our sakes. If no one has noticed, there is an actor who has until now avoided mention. Young Eric Miller (for we all know that beard is fake--I mean, Come ON), whose anemic portrayal of Dr. Bradman, a once dignified reprentative of Noel Coward's fictional aristocracy, has given new meaning to the word 'hack'. I knew something was amiss at the opening when I smelled the stench coming from the stage, but I wrote it off as a pyrotechnics issue. It wasn't until I noticed the brimstone vapor wax and wane with Miller's entrances and exits that I understood what was happening. I think the highest compliment that can be paid to the other actors is in applauding their ability to keep their stomachs down while on stage with him. It is a bit of a shame, though. As professional as they all are, their distrust of his cro-magnon acting instincts and their justifiable fear of his waffling inconsistency do sometimes surface in their characterizations. Mercifully, his scenes are brief, as if Noel Coward had had a premonition of his own about this acting programs' dreadful mistake. Overall, with the exception of Miller's two scenes, I was very impressed with the show. If you find yourself agreeing with me, do yourself a favor: check your phone messages during Act 2, scene 3. Maybe take a potty break. This show has reinforced to me the old adage: There are no small roles, but there are some REALLY horrible actors.
Eric, Eric, Eric by ElaineEtc
...I would just like to state for those unfamiliar with the varied senses of humor in this production that Eric Miller is a very very sarcastic man. And a freaking lousy actor. But he does play a mean game of Euchre. That is all.
by ElaineEtc
...and in no way did I mean that to be a dig at anyone (please don't misread me!). Well, except Eric.
Lemme S'plain Something by aariel
OK. I don't, normally, chime in on reviews that involve me, but had to put my 2 cents in on this one, however gauche that makes me ;-).

Robert, in no way, 'choreographed' this show. We, as actors, weren't 'suffocated' or over blocked. However, from the beginning, we were going for a less Americanized, more pure & very tight, quick version of Blithe Spirit...right down to the make up (which bothered you, oddly enough) we use, entitled 'Blithe Spirit' which is the color pallette approved by Mr. Coward, himself, and used to this day. Robert has done extensive research on Noel Coward and Blithe Spirit in particular, as well as performing in several Noel Coward plays. So, in doing my own research, I felt he was dead on in his directing and found it to be an incredible challenge. I appreciate the fact that you don't gun for actors, but, while I believe everyone should have an opinion about Art, your expression of it missed the mark, a bit.

Having said that, I knew not everyone would 'get' it. Not in a snotty-I'm-too-above-you actor way. Just that, stylized as it is, it isn't going appeal to every, single person across the board. Especially anyone with a preconceived notion of how Blithe Spirit should be done...which is almost everyone in the biz. :-) I've seen 2 productions, myself, so I understand the dilemma of being fair and equitable when reviewing something I love or something I've done.

That's why I think, in reviewing something you've done and love, you should be extra careful to be clear and accurate. If you've done the show, take a look at your script and note the specifics you are reviewing. If you make a statement like 'Robert Egizio can't really be faulted in casting from a pool of actors that he possibly knew from his days at Actor's Express, but in several instances it hurt him', back it up. You liked Mark (who wouldn't). But, since I'm the only other actor he knew from the Express, I can only assume you meant me. I'm a big girl, if you're going to make a statement like that, expand on it. Daedalus/Brad does a great job at it and I value his well thought out and expressed reviews even when he doesn't like me.

Personally, I love the coffee scene. I went and double checked my script after reading your review and, I believe, the scene was written with that in mind since the dialogue is incidental excepting one line about Madame Arcarti's 'control' which Laine, with her beautiful timing, never interferes with being heard. But that's just my opinion. The stakes are supposed to be high in a Noel Coward play, so I take it as a compliment that you thought she had the intensity of someone diffusing a bomb. That means she's doing her job. I think Tim hit the right points concerning Elvira...and I'd rather not get into a weird, defensive thing about the cast. I feel privileged to work with them.

Wrapping this up (finally!), I have to say it's extremely prejudicial to assume that, because someone is great at one thing, it HAS to be the thing wrong with any given show. Review the directing. Review the acting. But statements that insinuate because Robert is a good choreographer he didn't do a good job directing seems catty to me. I'm really good at softball, singing and excel spreadsheets but I, hardly, think those are the only things I'm good at and the problem that's getting in the way of you enjoying my performance. If you had never known that Robert had done any choregraphy, how would you review his directing? Constructive reviewing, which I think you're shooting for, should always be taken from that standpoint.

I'm sorry you didn't enjoy our take on the show, but really appreciate your supporting local theatre. We are enjoying ourselves on and off stage and I'm sorry that didn't come across to you.

Thanks, Tim, for your heroic defense. If you ever come back to show, I have some candy in my dressing room for you :-). Introduce yourself.

I'm not upset or gunning for you, Mario, and I hope you take this in the spirit intended...to clarify some misconceptions.

-Aimée Ariel
Awful Boy by aariel
Trust Eric to beat me to the punch and post before me and be WITTY. Such a brat. :-)
Oh, my god. . . by Mario
Aimee,

Thanks so much for your reply. If I'd known one of the cast was going to read this, I might have phrased my notes a bit differently, but it still would have amounted to the same. Still, I would have loved to chat with you or any of the cast after the show and compare notes. And I'm sorry I'm anonymous and you're not but because I'd love to get cast at Dunwoody some day so I'm afraid I'll have to remain so . . .

The first thing I need to make clear is that my comments were more "notes" to the director than a review. Note I did not rate the show. Were I on sufficient terms with the director I would have asked him about each of the points I made. That I thought he miscast Elvira and Arcotti, that some of the maids scenes didn't work and however authentic Elvira's costume and makeup were, they were still awful. I did struggle with the fact that I was comparing your production to one I did 10 years ago as well as the fact that I was watching a preview. I recently reviewed a video of my production and, trust me, yours was directed far, far better.

I didn't single you out by ommission, it was my guess that more of the cast were Actor's Express alumni. Still, I didn't mention you because in my minds eye, I just didn't see you as Ruth, but then that's me comparing you to the Ruth I performed with. No disrespect to you nor to the tremendous amount of time, talent and energy you put in to the show was intended.

I don't think I've gotten enough credit for writing "The quality and caliber of the actors were uniformly impressive, delivering their dialogue and movements crisply and precisely albeit a bit too disciplined." I know that's a double edged sword, but I was awfully impressed with the performances. I'd be honored to be on stage with any of you.

My issue with Egizio's blocking is simply this, I watch actors move on stage and hear what they're presenting and when they don't match up I wonder why. There are times you see an actor with the urge to take another step, or stop too soon or stand at a spot simply because he was told to. I saw that more with the maid and Elvira and wondered if he was blocking too tightly. Still, the martini scene was masterful.

Good luck with the run, hope it does well.
Ok...I was gonna let this go. by ElaineEtc
Mario-On this site, the actors OFTEN read the reviews, if not during the run, then after. I would just like to say, for the record, that the maid has a name both onstage and off. My name is Laine and my character is Edith. Not that it's really important, I'm just kinda sad that you don't recall that since you've done the show, played a character who said my name multiple times, and act as if she's set dressing when in reality she is the deus ex machina. You are more than welcome to say whatever you like about our production, however, especially as things said on this site are always taken with a grain of salt. I just wish you had treated Edith as a character and not a set piece. Thanks!
OK, I'm done here. . . by Mario
I've done all of the backpeddling and groveling I can do here. Whatever I say only pisses the cast off more, and I'm sorry about that. I apologise, Elain, but with a gun to my head I doubt that I could come up with more that 3 lines from a play I did over ten years ago.


I think you're a wonderful actress, I love you and want to have dozens of children with you and if I ever have the opportunity to help cast a play with an actor who can handliy defuse an atomic bomb (is that the red wire or the green?) in less than 90 seconds you're in.


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