Noël Coward is said to have written “Blithe Spirit” over the course of a week’s holiday, which he was forced to take when his London office and flat were destroyed during the Blitz of 1941. The drawing room comedy, which he sub-titled, “An Improbable Farce,” was written deliberately to cheer up war-weary Londoners, whom Coward figured were hungry for some escapist diversion. He was right.
In fact, since the play has continued to be a favorite over the years, it may be safe to assume that people will always require the diversion that fantasy and laughter afford.
This Tipping Point Theatre production of “Blithe Spirit” holds true to Noel Coward’s witty script, and enjoys a charming cast, but is reset in swinging 1967, when séances were coming back into vogue and a frivolous curiosity regarding the occult was de rigueur.
“Blithe Spirit” opens as successful novelist Charles Condomine is about to host a séance. But he admits to his wife Ruth, and their guests for the evening, that he has invited the eccentric medium Madame Arcati under false pretenses. The skeptical Charles is simply doing research for his newest novel, and hopes to pick up some of the jargon and tricks of the woman whom, he assumes, is a fraud.
During the séance, “something” happens… and Charles soon discovers that seeing is believing. His first wife Elvira, dead for seven years, makes an inexplicable appearance, but only Charles can see or hear her. Elvira wastes no time causing trouble between Charles and wife #2, Ruth. Of course, Ruth assumes that Charles is pranking her – or possibly suffering some sort of breakdown. But when Elvira begins moving flower arrangements and dousing Ruth with gin, Madam Arcati is again summoned to see if she can set things right.
Directed by Suzi Regan, who knows comedy inside and out (as both a gifted actress and director), “Blithe Spirit” is served up like a dry martini with a twist of brilliant witticisms, generous physical gags, and tight ensemble performances. The seven-member cast features: Ryan Carlson as the hilariously haunted Charles Condomine; Emily Sutton-Smith as his no-nonsense second wife, Ruth Condomine; Angela R. Plank is the mischievous ghost Elvira; Brian P. Sage and Hallie B. Bard appear as Dr. and Mrs. Bradman, guests at the séance; Leslie Hull is the eccentric Madame Arcati; and Nancy Penvose is the long-suffering house maid, Edith.
Given the need to create ghostly mayhem on the set, this play is an unusual choice for a theatre-in-the-round setting, but Tipping Point pulls it off. As Director Regan explains, “The biggest challenge in a production like this is we are staging the play in the round, so it makes any sleight of hand more difficult.”
And that’s half the fun of this show. Making it all feel real are: Set Designer and Lighting Designer, Daniel Walker; Costume Designer, Corey T. Globke; Properties Designer, Katie Terpstra; Sound Designer, Julia Garlotte; and Resident Stage Manager, Tracy L. Spada.
“Blithe Spirit” runs through October 13, 2013. The curtain rises at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, with matinees at 3 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tipping Point Theatre is located at 361 E. Cady St. in Northville. Tickets are are available by calling the box office at 248-347-0003. Prices are $29 to $32 for adults and $27 to $30 for students and senior citizens.