Spirited cast opens with Coward classic

Santa Maria Civic Theatre begins 53rd season
2011-09-23T00:00:00Z Spirited cast opens with Coward classicBy Brad Memberto/Staff Writer bmemberto@santamariatimes.com Santa Maria Times

Last weekend the Santa Maria Civic Theatre opened its 53rd season with a Noel Coward classic, “Blithe Spirit.” First performed in London during the start of World War II, the comedy was an escapist farce.

It was quite successful, spawning a film in 1945 starring Rex Harrison, a musical adaptation called “High Spirits” in 1964 and several television versions.

As with most Coward plays, the dialogue is the most important aspect of the play, and the performers must be able to handle the subtle timing and delivery of the words.

Directed by longtime Civic Theatre actor Alan H. Foster, in his directorial debut at the theater, the cast does a fairly good job of handling the difficult dialogue. There are a few misfires as one actress stumbled several times on her lines and another talked too fast, but overall the cast did fine.

Tim McManus plays Charles Condomine, an author researching the occult for a new book. He decides to hold a seance with a local medium to pick up some useful information.

Charles talks his second wife Ruth (Katie Cornell) into participating, as well as his physician, Dr. Bradman (Craig Scott), and his wife, Mrs. Bradman (Linda Scott).

The medium, Madame Arcati, is an eccentric and kooky lady, played quite well by Dixie Arthur. She is a large presence and commands attention when she is on stage.

During the seance, Madame Arcati accidentally brings Elvira, the deceased first wife of Charles, back into the house. Charles is the only one who sees his dead wife and begins to crack under the pressure.

Elvira is played by Angela Hutt-Chamberlin, who delivers her lines in a funny and biting manner. All she wants is Charles to join her in the spirit world, and continues to make his current marriage intolerable.

Elvira’s plan to have Charles join her goes wrong, setting up a whole new set of problems.

“Blithe Spirit” is told in three acts, and Foster does a good job of moving the action along.

McManus is very good as Charles. He seemingly has his life under control, but when Elvira 

arrives, his life becomes a shambles, his marriage with Ruth rolls out of control, and his frustration continuously grows. McManus does an excellent job conveying every emotion.

Hutt-Chamberlin is funny as she glides around the stage causing havoc in everything she does, and Arthur as Madame Arcati is genuinely wacky. Cornell also stands out in a humorous way, as her mood grows from bemused apathy to extreme bitterness.

Meagan Kuchan as Edith the maid is cute and silly before 

becoming a major plot point late in the play.

The set construction by Cliff Buck is very good, and the uncredited costumes and effects are good.

Of course, any play requiring English accents is a challenge. Adding in the fact that Coward dialogue is even more difficult, for the most part the cast handles them well.

“Blithe Spirit” was last performed at the Civic in the 1994-95 season, and it is a good and funny play that deserves to be revisited every 10-15 years.

“Blithe Spirit”

Score: B on the Brad-O-Meter

Copyright 2015 Santa Maria Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

No Comments Posted.

Civil Dialogue Policy for Commenting on SantaMariaTimes.com

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Comments can only be submitted by registered users. By posting comments on our site, you are agreeing to the following terms:

Commentary and photos submitted to the Santa Maria Times (SantaMariaTimes.com) may be published or distributed in print, electronically or other forms. Opinions expressed in SantaMariaTimes.com's comments reflect the opinions of the author, and are not necessarily the opinions of the Santa Maria Times or its parent company. See the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy for more information.

Our guidelines prohibit the solicitation of products or services, the impersonation of another site user, threatening or harassing postings and the use of vulgar, abusive, obscene or sexually oriented language, defamatory or illegal material. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability or other classification. It's fine to criticize ideas, but ad hominem attacks on other site users are prohibited. Users who violate those standards may lose their privileges on SantaMariaTimes.com.

You may not post copyrighted material from another publication. (Link to it instead, using a headline or very brief excerpt.)

No short policy such as this can spell out all possible instances of material or behavior that we might deem to be a violation of our publishing standards, and we reserve the right to remove any material posted to the site.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

Santa Maria Times Digital Promotion

Follow Us

Featured Businesses

View More...

Online e-Edition

Read your newspaper online, anytime, anywhere!

Read today's Santa Maria Times print edition at any time from any computer. Your local news and information at your convenience!

Read | Subscribe

Featured Ads