Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit is the perfect set up for a late 60s sitcom. Charles and his wife Ruth invite a medium over for an evening dinner and seance – partly as a laugh, partly to gather information for his next novel. As it unfolds, they unintentionally conjure the ghost of his seven years dead wife, Elvira. Who only he can see.
A befuddled husband living with his new wife and the ghost of his dead wife. It would be the perfect fit for an evening of supernatural comedies along with I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched.
Chances are good, of course, that you’ve seen it all before in some movie or TV show. And that’s okay. Blithe Spirit isn’t trying to break new ground or give any deeper understanding of the human condition. It aims to be a lighthearted evening with some good laughs and it succeeds splendidly.
There is a bit of trouble early on, mainly because the quite long scene between Charles and Ruth that opens the play isn’t that interesting. It’s laying more pipe that it needs to and you feel how long it is. Plus, there’s question whether the last couple scenes are needed at all. The play would have ended perfectly 20 minutes earlier — though we would miss out on some amusing set chaos to close the play.
That said, from the moment Elvira appears and Charles initially tries to hide and then tries to prove Ghost-Elvira’s existence, there’s a lot of laughs to be had.
Heather Archibald’s Elvira is pitch perfect as the playful ghost – or should that be poltergeist? – eager to be back in the world and reconnecting with her love. If only they could be together… forever. Her costumers have also outdone themselves to give her an ethereal look. Diana Renee York plays counter to Archibald’s carefree exuberance as the very serious seeming Ruth, having a hard time figuring out how to compete with a ghost.
Ian Stauffer plays the perfect 60s sitcom leading man as Charles, stuck in the middle of his two wives. Rounding out the cast of our sitcom is Sarah Hearn’s Madame Arcati, the medium who may or may not have actual psychic powers.
The plot is pretty self explanatory here – you can probably see it unfolding in your head already – so there’s not much more to say. The little twists that come up along the way are fun and might even surprise you, but mostly, it’s a quiet evening to sit back, have some laughs, and enjoy yourself.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know what you think. Did you get a 60s sitcom vibe from Blithe Spirit? Did the tedium of Charles/Ruth first scene ruin the show for you? Join the discussion in the comments below.