The Stratford Files: Blithe Spirit

Blithe Spirit is a very witty character-based comedy. It is very reminiscent of what Whitehorse residents might see in a Guild production. In fact I believe that the Guild did do a production of the play in the 90’s. The play offers a lot of character-based humour and looks at a sacred subject in an extremely irreverent manner, in this case the subjects of marriage and death. The main difference between this particular production and something that could be seen in the Whitehorse is probably the very pretty and grand stage. The story follows Charles, a novelist whose first wife died seven years ago. Two years later, he married his current wife Ruth. In preparation for his newest novel about a phony medium, they invite a medium to their house to summon a ghost. The medium accidently summons Charles’ dead wife Elvira whom only he can see. Each act ends with a twist that causes more and more chaos. As the chaos intensifies, the characters who early on all seem quite positive reveal a darker side. Charles, who early on seems to be an extremely witty novelist and a loyal and reasonable husband, is revealed to be a rather childish and irresponsible man who clearly wasn’t ready for ether of his marriages. Ruth, who appears to a classy and witty woman, as well as a good match for Charles soon shows a much more domineering and temperamental side, taking out her anger at her situation on the other characters. Finally, Elvira who initially seems to be at the very least a loving wife and very loyal to Charles is revealed to be rather cheerfully amoral and unfaithful character. Despite the seeming seriousness of these revelations the play remains extremely humorous and light.
Ben Carlson is very funny as Charles doing a very good job at showing the character’s affable charm early on and his frustration as the play continues. Sara Topham is phenomenal as Ruth, capturing both the dry wit and elegance that the character exemplifies early in the play, while also showing the character’s steadily building rage and as the play continues, displaying increasingly hilarious explosions of anger which make for one of the best performances in the play. Michelle Giroux magnificently portrays Elvira’s capricious and chaotic personality showing how she can both be extremely charming and likable, but also destructive and self centered. Seana McKenna is great as the eccentric Madame Arcati. Her content excitement about the supernatural events is very endearing and her dancing around in her trances is very charming and funny. However, the standout performance is, without a doubt, Susie Burnett as Edith, the overly excitable maid. While all the other actors are great, she is without a doubt the funniest. Her constant nervous energy is absolutely hilarious.
The play is not the best that I’ve seen in Stratford although this may be partially because I’m more used to this type of play than the much more grand ones that are frequently seen in Stratford. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad play: it actually has a surprising amount of depth along with its humour, certainly more than The Three Musketeers had. The humour is good, not only because it is very witty and made me laugh several times, but also because it is all based around the characters and their personalities rather than just coming from random gags. Blithe Spirit is recommended.

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