Pictured: (clockwise): Coleman Crenshaw, Cinnamon Schultz, Jan Rogge, Matt Rapport, and Cheryl Weaver. Photo by Brian Paulette.
By Bec Pennington
Written, set, and first introduced in England during some of the most dangerous days of World War II, this is a three-act, two-intermission play involving death and the paranormal. It sounds like we’re in for a drawn out reflection piece, perhaps with a sprinkling of horror, but Noel Coward’s snarky wit produced a comedy farce that keeps us delightedly amused for nearly three enjoyable hours.
Writer and skeptic Charles Condomine has invited a couple of friends and co-conspirators to a dinner party with his second wife, Ruth. The guest of honor is a self-described psychic and notable eccentric, Madame Arcati. Charles hopes to gather some material for his new book as well as have a little surreptitious fun with his friends at the expense of Madame. All is going well until Madame falls into a trance and Charles’ impish, sexy, and decidedly dead first wife, Elvira, prances into the room, visible only to Charles, and aiming to do mischief at his new relationship. A few engineered misunderstandings, some floating objects, and an accidental death later, Charles and both his wives have had enough and Madame Arcati is once again summoned to help fix the matter – if she can.
Coleman Crenshaw successfully portrays the poor husband in over his head and demonstrates great timing with a sense for his audience. Cinnamon Schultz develops her character expertly, obviously enjoying the shift of tone in her final scenes. Margaret Shelby is raucously funny as the incompetent maid, Edith, as Jan Rogge is the perfectly silly Madame Arcati, and Matt Rapport and Cheryl Weaver are great as supporting characters (Cheryl’s talent begs for more lines). Vanessa Severo’s Elvira would steal all the scenes if she could, and we would let her. Her sparkling, fast-paced exchanges with Crenshaw keep the play moving, and my hat’s off to anyone who can pull that kind of high energy performance in those heels. Still, it’s hard to pick a standout performance, everyone in the cast seems to relish their role. Even Kelli Harrod’s set is enthusiastic, designed to surprise.
It’s fitting that Coward’s play was so successful in such a turbulent time. It is permissible escapism at its finest; lighthearted, devilish, and adorable. Grab a glass of your favorite beverage, sit back, and enjoy.
BLITHE SPIRIT runs through August 26th at the City Stage, Union Station. For more information visit kcactors.org.