“This is one of the funniest plays we’ve ever done,” said Suzy McGinley, “It’s clever, got a lot of great dialog, but it’s also got a lot of slapstick in it.”
Co-director Leslie Haynes commented, “Blithe Spirit” is like “’Plaza Suite’ because the humor is very dry, but there’s an undertone to it. It’s hysterical; the play is very funny. But there is some seriousness to it.”
Which surprises no one familiar with the work of Noel Coward. A British playwright, Coward’s “Blithe Spirit” set a record for the number of performances in England’s famous West End theatre, and was adapted for radio, television, and a successful movie.
Calling it a “Light Comedy in Three Acts,” it’s considered by critics to be one of Coward’s masterpieces, and now you can see it at the Alpine Theatre!
The play centers around widower, but now-remarried, Charles Condomine (played by Cam Matheny). While researching his latest novel on the occult, he decides to hold a séance in his house, which inadvertently summons Charles first-wife from the dead. This leads to uproarious chaos in Charles’ home, and among his friends.
“I’d say that Madame Arcati (played by Suzy McGinley) and Elvira (played by Missy Harbin) are the kind of characters people are going to want to come back to see again and again. When they both come out, they seem to be absolutely nuts, but they are saner than anything. Who you really want to know more about is Ruth (played by Angela Crank), she seems like the doting wife, and then you find her dimensions.
“And the harder Charles tries to ‘unring the bell,’ so to speak, the harder it becomes. Because the whole situation is just a hot mess,” Haynes laughed.
The character of Elvira doesn’t just provide great comedy; it’s also given the Players a chance to stretch their stage-make-up skills.
“I would say this is definitely the most elaborate make-up we’ve ever done. We’ve done heavier make-up, period-style make-up, but this is the first time we’ve made a ghost,” Haynes commented.
For a sneak preview of that make-up, make sure to take a look at the “Blithe Spirit” posters outside the Alpine Theatre, courtesy of the talented students and Professor Olivia Reeder in the Communication and Media Studies Program at WVU- P.
“Blithe Spirit” will also introduce some new faces to the Players audience. Mark Reed (playing Doctor Bradman) and Karen Parsons (playing Mrs. Bradman) will be making their Players debut this October.
“They (the Players) have scared me unbelievably. Both in the play and off the stage,” Reed joked.
“Its been very interesting. Especially to have your daughter (Amanda Blizzard) as your director, and starring with my granddaughter, that’s been really awesome,” Parsons added. “I think we have a really good team, and we’ve really melded together.”
October for the Players has traditionally meant a murder-mystery type of play, and “Blithe Spirit,” also falls into that category.
“Its definitely a who-done-it,” Haynes agreed. “You see Edith (played by Anne Blizzard) as a very unassuming maid, and you don’t foresee the enormous role she’s going to play. You are guessing right up until the end just how Elvira came back from the beyond.”
“Blithe Spirit” will also be the first time the Players will be using their new over-the-ear wireless mics.
“I’m excited to use the new wireless mics,” co-director Blizzard said. “You can sit in the back of the Alpine and not worry about whether you can hear. Because we do pay attention when our audience says its hard to hear something, but now every little sound, every Elvira huff and under-the-breath comment, you can hear them.”
And thanks to the Players fund at the Community Foundation and their recent ZZ Top raffle, courtesy of Dave and Linda Dickirson, the “Blithe Spirit” audience will be able to get the full effect of the play, no matter where they sit.
“Its definitely one of the top plays we’ve done,” Matheny said. “Just on the pure comedy aspect. It’s a true farce, with tons of physical comedy, and situational humor. It’s an amazing cast, and it’s just been a lot of fun.”
So don’t miss out on your chance to see the Jackson County Players’ production of “Blithe Spirit!”
This wacky who-done-it can be seen only at the Alpine Theatre at 7 p.m. on Oct. 19 or 26 and 2 p.m. on Oct. 20 or 27.
Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased online through the Players link on Facebook, at the Ripley Library, or at the box office before each performance.