Monday, March 30, 2015

Well worn "Blithe Spirit" a ton of fun at SVSU

Review by Janet I. MartineauPhoto by Kevin Rooker

Looking for something to do on this kind of chilly rainy ugly Sunday afternoon – then scurry out to Saginaw Valley State University to see its final performance of Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit."

Showtime is 3pm.  And the Ric Roberts direction of the British theater classic  is simply ghostly.

That's ghostly not ghastly.

In a nutshell, a 1940s nervous-type author gathers his wife and another couple and invites a madame medium to dinner followed by a seance – under the guise of research for his next book. The only problem is the wacky medium conjures up his first wife....and the teasing bitch is, well, invisible and inaudible to everyone else except him.

Whenever the poor bloke responds to something she has said, and because the others haven't heard it, what comes out of his mouth highly offends them. Many many giggles, So well written. Even though the show runs long and could certainly have used some editing back in the day.

The Jerry Dennis set is absolutely gorgeous. Obviously British upper crust and so richly detailed with artifacts, many of them on loan from Court Street Antiques. And the Roberts-designed costuming is elegant beyond words.

Visually the sets and costumes put you right back into this British era and you settle in comfortably.

And then seven-member cast is spot-on with its  upper crust British accents and characterizations. Again however, in a long-time bugaboo at SVU --  probably because these are young actors in training --  some of them tend to speak their lines in a rushed manner so the words jumble together.

The acting is the strongest with Cassidy Morey, the ghostly first wife Elvira. Her words  are always crystal clear,  always tinged with sarcasm, as she glides through the set exactly as one expects of a ghost.

Her face is an ever-changing landscape, even her body movements are sarcastic. She literally buries herself in this role and also us along with her.

Matching her but totally in contrast is the daffy medium, Brianne Dolney. Her character is flamboyant, never all quite there mentally, prone to fainting, not well dressed, and not particularly gifted in mediumship. God love her and the way Dolney carries her off.

Put Dolney onstage with Morey, whom she can't see, and every moment is riveting. Dolney also speaks clearly for the most part.

Isaac Wood  is the jittery playwright and Mykaela Hopps his easily offended and delicate wife with Jonah Connor and Lexee Longwell as a couple invited to the seance which sets everything in wild motion.

Watching Wood's character inch by inch fall apart trying to navigate through life with two wives at once, and like we said one of whom no one else can see or hear AND is a handful, is delightful. Wood  is so into it he puts us into it and we start to feel his character's rising panic and frustration (although he does need to learn how to properly shake a martini).

Hopps has a thankless role -- as a nagging wife who is a little too high maintenance and      tightly wound so you immediately side with the ghost. She plays it very, very well.

The Connor and Longwell roles are minor, and neither does much to elevate them in some way.

Who does, even though about the only words she speaks are yes ma'am or no sir, is the family maid Edith, played by Amanda Moths. Edith is prone to rushing around way too fast, which her employers scold her for, so her attempts to slow down is slapstick at its best. 

Edith is always hovering about, snooping we suspect, and like Morey her face is a roadmap of expressions and her body movement equally expressive. 

Nice job all around on this well worn classic.

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