"Blithe Spirit" a fun and elegant romp at Pit & Balcony
Amy Spadafor Loose as the dead wife returned and Lucy Malacos as the medium seeking to send her back
review and photos by janet i. martineau
Dealing with someone who is dead is much less problematic than dealing with someone who has merely "passed over." Especially if she is a jealous wife. Who has been called back by mistake. And has an agenda. That is the premise of Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit," an oldie but still goodie on the theater scene -- and opening tonight (March 20) for a two-weekend run at Saginaw's Pit & Balcony Community Theatre. Saginaw Valley State University staged this 1940-era period piece earlier this season; its cast, shall we say, more youthful energetic. Pit's production is a more mature one, shall we say, its performances and pacing more subdued. And both were/are absolutely splendid -- a joy of contrasts we did not anticipate as a critic. Michael Wisniewski directs at Pit, he being a familiar face as a director and actor at Bay City Players. He also designed the magnificent set and also is its costume designer. The set -- that of wealthy Brits -- is total eye candy and richly detailed: a massive filled book case, pieces of art hung everywhere, flowers in vases and plants on the porch, lovely furniture, billowing curtains, a sliding door that covers the wooden steps leading to other parts of the house. Add to that is the upper crust costuming, and in the case of the meddling madame an overwhelming array of necklaces. And Wisniewski does not resort to an over abundance of special effects, as some productions do. He lets the lines do the work, and the movement of his actors. Thus enter the cast, excellent all. Michael Curtis as a novelist who has arranged a seance for research and Cathie Stewart as his prune-faced fussy wife. Amy Spadafore Loose as the novelist's smirky and snotty dead wife, brought back by eccentric and flamboyant medium/madame Lucy Malacos. David and Audrey Lewis as an elegant couple invited to the seance...and they are ever-so elegant. And Karen Fenech as the always-in-a-hurry maid. Great facial expressions all always. Solid diction (and hurrah no microphones in this production). Excellent delivery of the witty lines that are the hallmark of this play. Fluid movement for its farcical aspects. Timing solid. Just a snag or two with English accents fading and and a line fumbled. Loose as the returned dead wife is a particular delight, only heard and seen by her hubby. She is just so wonderfully smirky and snotty you want to go up on the stage and slap her face -- and she sports a fun dead-like pale face. Malacos also is an athletic and scatter-brained medium...a person not quite right but interesting to watch in her hysterical actions. (And by the way, she did the same role when she was in high school.) Listen also to the pre-show and intermission music which also fits the period. The show is written long and talky ... but it flies by.