Review: ‘Blithe Spirit’ at Other Voices Theatre

This Halloween season, Other Voices Theatre is conjuring up a delightful evening of comedy in Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit, brilliantly directed by Susan Thornton.

Liz Weber, Matt Bannister, Amy Hebb, Melissa Powell, and Bruce Pope in Blithe Spirit, now playing at Other Voices Theatre. Photo by Adam Blackstock.
Liz Weber, Matt Bannister, Amy Hebb, Melissa Powell, and Bruce Pope in Blithe Spirit, now playing at Other Voices Theatre. Photo by Adam Blackstock.

Wishing to observe the behavior of local clairvoyant, Madame Arcati, for a novel he is writing featuring a homicidal spiritualist, author Charles Condomine and his wife, Ruth, invite her and their friends Dr. and Mrs. Bradman, over for dinner and a seance. All skeptics, the two couples assume Madame Arcati will turn out to be a fraud and are shocked when, while the medium is in a trance, supernatural manifestations take place. As all this is happening, Charles hears the voice of his late wife, Elvira, who had passed away seven years prior.

When everyone is leaving, Elvira appears, only seen and heard by Charles. As he converses with Elvira, Charles and Ruth begin quarreling, causing an exasperated Ruth to believe he must be drunk. When comical miscommunications between Charles and both his wives continue the next morning, Ruth begins to worry there is something more wrong with him. This whole time, flirtatious Elvira, who returned from the other side with ulterior motives, is manipulating Charles to do her bidding and causing disharmony in his relationship with Ruth.

Ruth meets with Madame Arcati another day and is discouraged to learn that Madame Arcati is unable to dematerialize Elvira–who continues to cause mayhem which soon turns dangerous. Will Madame Arcati eventually figure out a way to send Elvira back to the other side before she causes irreparable damage to the Condomines’ marriage?

Matt Bannister is outstanding in the role of novelist Charles Condomine. As he is emotionally pulled back and forth between two very strong-willed women, you can feel the struggle he is going through trying to placate his current wife while fighting, rather unsuccessfully, the urge to fall back under his late wife’s seductive spell.

Charles’ wives prove to be perfect foils to his sometimes wishy-washy personality as he tries to please both women and failing miserably. Michelle Boizelle as Elvira is coquettish yet provocative as she plays with Charles’ emotions while also being manipulative and conniving as she causes strife in his marriage while plotting more nefarious deeds. As Ruth, Melissa Powell is perfect as the pragmatic spouse who worries about her husband’s mental health while trying to figure out how to exorcize the house of the ghost of his late wife.

Michelle Boizelle as Elvira in Blithe Spirit, now playing at Other Voices Theatre. Photo by Adam Blackstock.
Michelle Boizelle as Elvira in Blithe Spirit, now playing at Other Voices Theatre. Photo by Adam Blackstock.

Amy Hebb, performing the role of Madame Arcati, is a master of scenery chewing and knows how to steal every scene in which she appears without taking away from anyone else onstage at the time. Seeing her react to a ghostly presence and going into her trances is worth the price of admission.

As Dr. and Mrs. Bradman, Bruce Pope and Liz Weber were enjoyable as the skeptic friends joining their neighbors for a bit of a lark. LJ Teske, a newcomer to community theatre, was adorable as Edith, the maid. Her entrances and exits nearly always elicited laughter from the audience, and I look forward to seeing her more often onstage.

The production team for this play was outstanding. The set, designed by Lee Hebb, was gorgeous and had some very exciting surprises waiting for the audience. Costumes by Maria Boyce, Patty Byrne, and Nancy Speck, and props by Pat Dickinson and Jennifer Maschal-Lorms were beautiful and period appropriate. Lighting by Steve Knapp and sound by Erica LeFebvre were well done as well.

For an enjoyable evening of ghostly hijinks, you don’t want to miss Other Voices’ production of Blithe Spirit.

Running Time: Two and a half hours, with one 15-minute intermission.

Blithe Spirit plays through October 28, 2018, at The Performing Arts Factory, 244B South Jefferson Street in Frederick, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 662-3722 or purchase them online.