By Paul Love
In the early 1940s, Noël Coward was struggling to develop an idea he had for a comedic play about ghosts — not an easy task when death was a very real, ever-present, and decidedly unfunny subject in the lives of British citizens in the midst of World War II. After some deep thought and discussion between Coward and an actor friend, the play fell into place, along with its title, “Blithe Spirit”, which Coward lifted from a Percy Bysshe Shelley poem.
Charles Condomine is a novelist who invites a medium named Madame Arcati to his home to perform a séance. Charles is not a believer in the occult, but wants to witness the séance as a means of research for a book he is writing. He invites his wife, Ruth, and his friends Dr. and Mrs. Bradman to join in. The séance goes awry (of course), and the ghost of Charles’s first wife, Elvira, appears, although only Charles can see and hear her.
Charles and Ruth are played, respectively, by Ian Speiran and Kelley Dewey. There were moments when both of these actors were difficult to hear, particularly in the opening scene. However, I have no doubt that this issue will be solved as they settle into the run. Despite this issue, they manage to create — separately and together — an appropriately stuffy British couple, generating some genuinely funny moments along the way.
Jim Ferr and Alexandra Savage-Ferr up the humour factor with their takes on Dr. and Mrs. Bradman, respectively. Ms. Savage-Ferr is particularly enjoyable in those moments where Mrs. Bradman takes on the recognizable role of the friend who loves to gossip.
Laura Thibideau is delightful as the ghost of Elvira, alternating between prankish and moody. Her clever avoidance of Ruth’s ire is particularly enjoyable to watch.
Kudos are deserved for Kathlyn Angelo as the Condomines’ maid, Edith. Although the character doesn’t have a lot to do in the show, it was a solid effort by a first-time actor.
Shari Thorne was truly the driving force of this production. Her Madame Arcati was wonderfully kooky and zany, contrasting nicely with the priggishness of the other characters, and adding a bright spark of energy to the proceedings. Her reactions to Elvira moving objects around and her attempts to sniff out ectoplasm were very funny.
Full credit should be given to the backstage crew for handling the few set malfunctions (hey, they happen) like pros. Kudos, as well, go to the technical wizards who did a great job with some potentially tricky scenes.
Ajax Community Theatre’s production of “Blithe Spirit” heads into its second and final week with shows on February 21, 22, and 23 at the St. Francis Centre, 78 Church St. S. in Ajax at 8 pm. Your best bet for getting tickets would be to visit the website.