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Blithe Spirit

a Comedy
CATEGORY : COMEDY
by Noel Coward

COMPANY : Centerstage North Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The Art Place - Mountain View
ID# 4642

SHOWING : October 16, 2014 - October 25, 2014

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

The smash comedy hit of the London and Broadway stages, this much-revived classic from the playwright of "Private Lives" offers up fussy, cantakerous novelist Charles Condomine, re-married but haunted (literally) by the ghost of his late first wife, the clever and insistent Elvira who is called up by a visiting "happy medium," one Madame Arcati. Personalities, of the living and the not, clash in this classic comedy hit.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Stephen Banks
Madam Arcati Rose Bianco
Dr. George Bradman Hugh Chapman
Edith Lauren Coleman
Elvira Condomine Janie Hitchcock
Ruth Condomine Stacy King
Violet Bradman Barbara McFann
Charles Condomine Joel Rose
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REVIEWS

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Pruning a Dead Pear Branch
by playgoer
Saturday, October 25, 2014
2.5
"Blithe Spirit" is a delightful play when done right. Center Stage North Theatre’s production doesn’t approach delightfulness. Almost all elements have notable flaws. David Shelton’s set design creates an environment that is simultaneously drab and too colorfully painted, with a sterile, characterless feel. Sound design by director Stephen Banks lacks any effect for table rapping, although it does try to use mood-heightening music in a somewhat un-subtle way at various points. Brad Rudy’s lighting design provides uneven illumination in the downstage area and allows unpleasant reflections in French doors and photo frame glass. Kelly Shaffer’s costumes generally look good, with the exception of one misbehaving collar point at the performance I saw, but they firmly ground the action in a period that seems to be the 1970’s rather than the script’s original 1940’s period. There seems to be no particular point for this change of period.

The action is supposed to take place in England, but the British-lite accents used occasionally by some members of the cast scream "community theatre." It’s obvious that director Stephen Banks considered his contribution to the show to be technical elements and blocking rather than character exploration. Consequently, we have scene-stealing comic bits restricted to Lauren Coleman’s performance as Edith and a fey, unbelievable performance by Joel Rose as Charles Condomine. Stacy King and Janie Hitchcock, as Charles’ two wives, give fine performances (accent aside), but have nothing credible to play against romantically. Rose Bianco, as Madam Arcati, plays her role with physical movements and vocal intonations that eerily resemble the Horizon’s Lisa Adler as a brunette. Barbara McFann and Hugh Chapman, as the Bradmans, don’t do anything to improve the flow of the show, with Mr. Chapman’s labored line delivery a momentum killer. It all just seems to sit there like a lump, instead of being the frothy confection the show should be.

A number of audience members failed to return after intermission. That’s a little too bad, since the second half of the show is superior to the first half. Part of that is due to Noel Coward’s script, which tends to be a bit talky in the initial scenes. But a bunch of neat stage effects at the end of the show (albeit with obvious fishing line strung high above the set) can’t make up for the listless action that has gone on before it. It’s all a bit like the dead branch of a pear tree that Charles trims (offstage). Pear trees are pretty, right? But not when they’re dead.
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