A Séance Leading to Haunting Fun!

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

Be a witness to the shenanigans

STORY AND PHOTO BY: JEFFREY STITES

Brunswick Little Theatre is serving up a real treat this Halloween in its performance of the classic Noel Coward comedy Blithe Spirit.
The show, first performed on London’s West End in 1941, tells the story of upper-crust novelist Charles Condomine (Ted Roupas) as he commissions a séance, as entertainment and research for his next book, with the eccentric medium Madame Arcati (Evelyn Petros) in the company of his current wife, Ruth (Carolyn Stringer), his friends Dr. and Mrs. Bradman (Lee Norris and Elizabeth Flora), and of course the maid, Edith (Brandi Simmons). The séance goes a bit awry as Charles’ first wife, Elvira (Katherine Wooten) materializes but is only seen and heard by Charles. Elvira attempts to torment Charles into dumping her “replacement,” Ruth, only to eventually have Ruth join her in her ghostly shenanigans, leaving the living with double the trouble.

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Director Chris Walters is enthralled by the play’s historical setting in 1940s Britain. “The war was on and it was destined to be a horrible next few years. From the Blitz to an upcoming and unthinkable V-2 rocket barrage about to begin, sudden death from the sky was an all too real and pressing truth in everyday life,” Walters said. “Blithe Spirit not only turned thinking about death into a farce, but literally plucked out its stinger and tickled (Noel Coward’s) audiences’ ribs with it as plot device to torment and amuse his on-stage alter-ego, high society writer-at-large, Charles Condomine.”
Walters called the cast that brings Blithe Spirit to life “fantastic,” adding, “at first glance we are a mis-matched set of silk spats. Some come highly polished, one with professional experience on a global stage, while others are looking down the performance gun-barrel for the first time.” He said he is impressed with the cast’s ensemble spirit. “From breathing, jousting spouses to befuddled mediums to poltergeists in heels, on stage they all fit together,” he said.
Brunswick Little Theatre’s stage will be transformed into a 1940s British country home by Paul Bertelsen, a veteran set designer who has worked professionally on Broadway and taught at Brandeis University. “Paul was actually involved in set design on Blithe Spirit when it was first touring this country. You will see that kind of experience and attention to detail when our lights go up. Our set is nicer than some of the places I’ve lived,” said Walters.
Even with the help of a wonderful cast and talented set designer, Blithe Spirit still haunted Walters with some real difficulties. Walters explained, “Having come “across the pond” in the 1940s, Blithe Spirit has some definite challenges for a modern American audience. Even beyond the three-act format, (modern audiences are used to two) many of the references that would have been instantly recognized by war-torn England aren’t as familiar to us; actors, directors or audiences. How do you tackle that and try to stay faithful to the author’s work?”

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Walters recognized that comedy only works if audiences get the joke, and that only happens if actors understand the punch line themselves. “The solution we’re using is to take every reference we don’t understand and ferret out the phrase as far back as internet or local World War II family can take us. We bring that to life with the show. It is such a great game that now actors are hunting phrases and places down on their own,” Walters said.
Walters invites everyone to get in the spirit, “Come join us for a séance! Dig up some past spirits of your own with Noel Coward, Irving Berlin and the 1940s. You know, when get-togethers were parlor games instead of television, when conversation was a practiced art and while it was still safe to smoke. What better way to spend a late October evening—or matinee—than catching a ghost or two in the English countryside? You won’t even need a passport—just a ticket.”
Blithe Spirit will take possession of the Brunswick Little Theatre, 8068 River Road SE, Southport, for two weekends, October 23-25 and Halloween Weekend, October 30-November 1. Friday and Saturday shows are at 7:30 p.m. with Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. All seating is general admission and tickets can be purchased at the Ricky Evans Gallery, 211 N. Howe Street, Southport, or online at www.brunswicklittletheatre.com. Tickets prices are $17 for adults and $12 for students with identification. As long as the shows don’t sell out with advance purchases (although they often do) tickets will also be available at the door. Call the Brunswick Little Theatre at (910) 447-BLT6 (2587) with any questions or for more information.

One Response to A Séance Leading to Haunting Fun!

  1. Theana Kastens says:

    Wonderful! Such talented actors. Just plain wonderful!

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