Blithe Spirit at A Noise Within: A Theatrical Review
They have done it again: A Noise Within – on of Southern California’s leading repertory theatre companies has another masterful production on their hands with their current presentation of Noel Coward’s ‘Blithe Spirit’. The notably elegant theatre which meets in the historic Masonic Temple on Brand Ave in the heart of downtown Glendale, has once again proven that the passion and love that they have for classic theatre is what makes great theatrical programs truly remarkable.
A genuinely English production set in the early 1940’s Blithe Spirit focuses on a man who is having true difficulties dealing with the women in his life. Though the subject matter is absolutely not my personal cup of tea, this production which deals with the questions of the supernatural and cultic connections of a perceived psychic (Madame Arcati played by Jane Macfie) with the deceased wife (Elvira Condomine played by Abby Craden) of Charles Condomine (played by Scott Lowell), compels the audience member to join in the story with great interest. Ad the frustrations and unending concerns of the current Mrs. Ruth Condomine (played by Jill Van Velzer), and the makings of a hilarious ‘who done it’ is afoot. Not that this is a murder mystery by any means, but the content and style of production is much the same as a murder mystery might be. Family friends Dr. Bradman (played by Gibby Brand) and his wife Mrs. Bradman (played by Jacque Lynn) join the fun of mocking the apparent absurdity of the supposed psychic with all of her wildly obscure mannerisms. If the uncommon dry wit and hilarious situation comedy that this little band of characters was not enough, Noel Coward has added yet another character that turns out to hold the keys to the entire mystery, a frenzied maid named Edith played by Alison Elliott. All together this production will have its audience laughing from beginning to end, regardless of whether you are a believer in the psychic powers of gentile individuals like Madame Arcati or not.
The audience starts its experience with close parking behind a historic building in the heart of Glendale. A courteous theatre staff will meet you at the box office to sell you your tickets then direct you either up the venerable stair case, or accompany you in the old-world elevator (centrally located for the disabled or those with difficulties with stairs); then take you to your seat with a playbill in hand. You are presented with a magnificent set that seems to have spared absolutely no expense, done as theater in the half-round. The introduction of each character shows that extreme detail has been paid to all costuming, props, dialects, and acting expertise. There is honestly not one individual in the production that is lacking in any manner. Each and every performer could easily steal the show all alone, if it weren’t for the fact that as a cast they compliment and tribute one another.
The production unfolds with first a mockery on the perceived skills of the calamitous Madame Arcati, growing deliberately into the return of the deceased wife of Charles, Elvira. The phantom Elvira then spends the remainder of the production terrorizing the current Mrs. Condomine, Ruth, who eventually finds a way to equal her un-earthly footing. At first tortured by this apparition, Charles learns to actually enjoy the feminine attention that this new found duality affords him. This, of course, only serves to surge Ruth on in her repugnance of the apparent, yet unseen, presence of the former Mrs. Condomine. In fervent attempts to rid herself of this superfluous duality of women in her husband’s life, Ruth reaches for any and all possible assistance; even the assistance of the mendacious Madame Arcati.
As a reviewer, I will not offer the manner in which the production comes to an end, but suffice it to say that what one might expect is not what one will see. Though certainly not a production for all audiences; namely any and all who disagree with the subject matter of the metaphysical or younger viewers considered children; Blithe Spirit is a truly wonderful piece of theatrical expertise. Hats off to Damaso Rodriguez who has selected this production as his directorial debut, he has truly done a tremendous job.
Blithe Spirit is playing Wednesday through Saturday evenings at 8:00 PM, with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM through Friday December 17, 2010 at A Noise Within, located at 234 South Brand Boulevard, Glendale, CA 91204. To purchase tickets, or for a full season brochure, contact 818-240-0910 x1, or visit www.ANoiseWithin.org.
As a reviewing critic, I would be highly remiss if I did not mention the fact that A Noise Within is in the process of raising the final funding needed, and has already broken ground on their new permanent theatrical home. Sometime in the Fall of 2011, A Noise Within will be leaving its long-time home in Glendale for its brand new 13.3 million dollar facility in Pasadena at the corner of Foothill Boulevard and Sierra Madre Villa Avenue. A fantastic 33,000 square-foot venue is being built in the former Stuart Pharmaceutical building, a historic, mid century modern masterpiece designed by celebrated architect Edward Durell Stone. Offering seating to 55,000 people annually will only assist A Noise Within in promoting not only excellence in theater, but exceed all current boundaries they face with promoting literacy and cultural awareness through their educational programming (find out more on their web-site). From this critic’s opinion, it is high time that excellence in theatre be brought to the forefront of Southern California’s minds by offering yet another phenomenal theatrical venue that is sure to be compared with the Mark Taper Forum and the Kirk Douglas Theater; both of which require its patrons to travel into the heart of Los Angeles.
Job Well Done!
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