‘Blithe Spirit’ at Prince William Little Theatre

FOUR AND A HALF STARS
Lift your spirits with Prince William Little Theatre’s (PWLT) production of Noel Coward’s comedic play, Blithe Spirit. Taking place in the 1940s at the stunning British home of Charles (Matthew Scarborough) and his second wife Ruth (Caity Brown) as they host a dinner party, Charles plans a séance to do research for his new book. He invites the eccentric medium Madam Arcati (Terresita Edwards), into his home intending to expose the Madam as a fraud. To witness this event, Charles and Ruth invite their neighbors, Dr. Bradman (Paul Rubenstein) and his wife, Violet (Fatima Razi). In the course of the séance, Madam Arcarti mistakenly summons Charles’ first wife, Elvira (Tegan Cohen), back from the beyond, and things become thoroughly out of hand. Comedy materializes as Charles is caught between two wives from two different worlds all at the same time.

Mrs. Bradman, Doctor Bradman, Madame Arcati, Charles, and Ruth. Photo by David Harback.
Mrs. Bradman, Doctor Bradman, Madame Arcati, Charles, and Ruth. Photo by David Harback.

2014 WATCH Leading Actress Award Winner, Mary-Anne Sullivan, is thrilled to return to PWLT in her directorial capacity after being away from directing for the past eight years. Sullivan’ meticulous direction and her superior attention make this a wonderful experience. From the spectacular set and dressings, to the brilliant use of space, the well-developed characters, the fantastic costumes, and strategic lighting, Blithe Spirtit is a huge success!

Director Mary-Anne Sullivan’s set design was a perfect frame to highlight the acting and storyline in the production. The gold, burgundy, and black accents of the period set were of high quality and coordinated perfectly with both the actors’ costumes and the background of the set.  The punch-out in the bookcase, the off-kilter pictures during the final scene, the doors that flung open when something mischievous was going on, and the chandelier dropping – all orchestrated perfectly – all made for very interesting visual layers and believability. The space was expertly coordinated without making it hard for the audience to see all the action. It was very clever, and visually interesting, to save time by having some scene changes done by cast members within the scenes, as well as some performed by the crew who were dressed as butlers and maids, and one (Larry Keeling) sported chains like he was a ghost.

Lisa Goodell Stewart’s lighting design was incredibly well done, especially when special lights were used to highlight the séance. No matter where you were in the play, the mood and atmosphere of the scenes completely married with the lighting.

Suzy Moorstein’s costume design was icing on the cake. Each impeccable and 1940’s style costume invoked the story and each character’s social status well.  I especially enjoyed Ruth’s (Caity Brown) cute little yellow dress with cream shoes and pearls that blended so well across from her black hair. As the plot changes. Moorstein had Brown with the same style dress – but it had changed to lavender with matching lavender pearls and tights, with Ruth now sporting a new blonde wig to help ‘symbolize’ how her life was now in a new “gray” area.

The show’s success depends upon the unique and strong characters that are clearly different from one another, yet still work together well as an ensemble.  Sullivan has achieved this beautifully. It’s not easy for each actor to take on this marathon of a show, and this talented ensemble’s pacing, diction, and timing were flawless. It was easy to understand the dynamics of each relationship and the issues their characters were facing. For example, the chemistry between prudish and tightly wound Ruth and Charles  Charles (Matthew Scarborough) and his second wife Ruth (Caity Brown) was very uptight, while the sassy and almost child-like, Elvira (Tegan Cohen) brought out a much more playful Charles.

I really enjoyed Carleigh Hopkins’ performance as the quirky maid Edith – her racing around the house and constantly being told to walk was a very cute spin, and immediately caused an adorable dynamic to this character.  Her anxiety around the medium and the ghosts added a deeper and interesting dynamic and layer to a stock character that could have been played one-dimensionally.

Tegan Cohen (Elvira), Matthew Scarborough (Charles), and Caity Brown (Ruth). Photo by David Harback.
Tegan Cohen (Elvira),
Matthew Scarborough (Charles), and Caity Brown (Ruth). Photo by David Harback.

Scarborough was superb as the very handsome and charismatic Charles, and was the emotional anchor of this production. He had a keen ability to show his relationships with each character clearly to us. He maneuvered through each scene and overcame the many obstacles and conflicts using dry wit and a more serious persona when he was relating to Ruth, to a completely flip-flop and more cheerful, smiley manner when he was interacting with Elvira. It was a convincing and wonderful performance.

Another standout performance was Terresita Edwards’ Madam Arcat. From the first look of her bright teal outfit accented with men’s shoes, to her deeply grounded body, and her choice of posture, movement, eye focus, and speech, Edwards not only made Madam Arcar a breath of fresh air, but also earned respect as the play’s nonconformist. As the character broke all barriers and took great risks, Edwards charming performance drew many laughs from the audience. I couldn’t take my eyes off her when she was on the stage!

Prince William Little Theatre’s Blithe Spirit is filled with terrific performances and non-stop laughs. It’s spiritually uplifting!

Running Time: Three hours, with one  intermission and one 5-minute stretch during Act II. 

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Blithe Spirit plays through March 16, 2014 at Prince William Little Theatre performing at The Gregory Family Theater in the Hylton Performing Arts Center -10960 George Mason Circle, in Manassas, VA. For tickets, purchase them a the box office or online.

LINK

Melissa Jo York-Tilley Interviews Cast Members of Prince William Little Theatre’s ‘Blithe Spirit.’

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Annie Bradley Ermlick
Annie Bradley Ermlick a member of SAG-AFTRA is an experienced actress, director, artistic director, technical director, choreographer, and a newly published songwriter. Someone who lives to support the arts, Annie was an Applied Voice Major at the Eastman School of Music and then went on to the Musical Theatre Program at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in NYC. At AMDA, Annie got her first professional break in an Off Broadway Show “Give My Regards to Broadway” and that 286-performance run led her to a successful and prosperous professional career as an actress. In addition to her professional musical theatre and play career in NYC, she has also performed in various Dinner Theatres and in Summer Stock. Annie feels fortunate to have been part of the Opera Company of Philadelphia, a Soprano Soloists Winner of the Pavarotti Vocal Competition, and to have toured through Europe. After recently joining community theatre in the DC Metro Area, Annie has cherished becoming a part of this network of local theatre families. Annie is proud to have been part of the WATCH judging program and holds a 2011 Nominee from WATCH in Directing, and a 2012 and 2013 Nominee for Supporting Actress in a Musical. Whether on stage, on production team, or writing about a show, Annie likes to help bring a story to life and ensure each show’s message is told and experienced by the audiences. Annie faces each new challenge head on and invests 100% of herself into each project. Her mission is to continue to grow as an actress, to support the arts, to give back to the community, and to help educate the next generation of actors. Annie feels writing for the DC Metro Theater Arts gives her a voice to support other artists, theatre companies and productions, and will bring more awareness to local residents of the quality of theatre in their own back yards. She enjoys giving feedback to help artists improve their craft and participating in promoting shows and, hopefully, expanding theatre companies growth throughout the Washington, DC metropolitan area.