By Merle Exit
Playwright Noel Coward is in the house, or rather at the Zion Episcopal Church, where the Douglaston Community Theatre is performing his classic comedy “Blithe Spirit.” The plays center on Charles Condomine (Rich Weyhausen), a successful novelist who wants to learn about the occult for a novel he is writing. To do so he arranges for an eccentric medium, Madame Arcati (Joan Edward), to hold a séance at his house. Charles invites his skeptic friend Dr. George Bradman (Nick De Casare) and his wife, Violet (Annette Daiell), who finds the medium idea fascinating.
During the séance, Madame Aracti accidentally summons Charles’s first wife, Elvira (Virginia Green), who has been dead for seven years. Madame Arcati is unaware of the outcome as only Charles can see or hear Elvira. When Charles speaks to Elvira, his second wife, Ruth (Barbara Mavro), responds as if Charles were talking to her, since she can neither hear nor see Elvira.
Charles is sophisticated, bright, debonair and likes to talk—a lot. He apparently enjoys imbibing as well, although he never seems to be toally under the influence. Wayhausen was perfect for the part, maintaining his character throughout, even when he was not speaking.
Ruth is quite the society matron and somewhat predictable, thinking her husband has lost his mind and trying to restore him to normalcy. Mavro’s portrayal is to the point and very “English” by keeping a stiff upper lip in even the most trying situations.
In life, Elvira (Virginia Green) appeared to be carefree and outgoing. She makes light of it in her ghostly manner even mentioning having had cocktails with Genghis Khan. Where Ruth is more straight-laced, Elvira is moody and disreputable. It is not until a floating vase is handed to Ruth out of thin air, that she acknowledges Elvira’s presence. The ghostly Elvira now makes continued, and increasingly desperate, efforts to disrupt Charles’s current marriage. Green, another seasoned actor, gives us an excellent performance, creating a believable character.
Madame Arcati is truly in contact with the other world. The problem is that she does not know how to return Elvira to the other side. I would characterize her as “the leading lady” with Edward leading us all the way. You don’t need a medium to see Coward’s sense of humor, as she portrays it quite well.
While “Blithe Spirit” may be a bit too long, the actors, along with director Marilyn Welsher, do a good job of keeping things entertaining.
Performances of Blithe Spirit are: Friday, Nov. 11 and 18 and Saturday, Nov. 12 at 8p.m. Matinees are at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 13 and Saturday, Nov. 19. Zion Episcopal Church is located at 243-01 Northern Blvd with the entrance to the theater on Church Street, just off Douglaston Parkway.