Warbles and trills over tinkling piano bellow from the bell of a phonograph in a stately, 1930’s English drawing room.
The master of the house, clad in navy, khaki and pastels, is droll and sardonic. The women around him flounce about in dazzling silks trailing billowy lacunas of scarf, sleeve and train. Despite their repressed politesse, they are perpetually high-pitched.
The liquor flows like water from crystal decanters. Irritation and misery permeate the air, but as it afflicts the absurd idle rich, you can’t help but smirk and chuckle from your distance.
It’s No«l Coward at the Lyric: a feast for the eyes, and a pleasant symphony of cadent British irony, whose substance lightly mocks at manners, mores and the eternal clash of the sexes.
"Blithe Spirit,"â€”the name is taken from Shelly’s "To A Skylark"â€”is a classic comic fantasy concerning marital discontent. Staged in this incarnation by artistic director, Spiro Veloudos, its premise revolves around the fascination of the scientific, modern British ruling class with some of the mysticism imported by the empire’s eastern territories.
When novelist Charles Condomine (Richard Snee) invites loony cockney psychic, Madam Arcati (Kathy St. George), to create a s©ance with his stuffy wife, Ruth (Anne Gottlieb) and their proper dinner guests, Dr. Bradman (Arthur Waldstein) and wife (Sarah deLima), he does so with no conscious desire to conjure the dead. His stated goal is to amuse his wife and guests while gathering research on this chicanery for a mystery novel he plans to write.
When, however, the s©ance seems convincingly to summon the ghost of Charles’ first wife on the eve of an argument he has been having with the second over whom he preferred, questions are raised both about his motives and his sanity. It only gets worse when Vivian (Paula Plum), the ghostly ex in question appears to Charles looking like an aged Marilyn Monroe complete with form-fitting white dress, formidable bust and platinum blond bob, and wants his full attention.
Plum is excellent as always as this spectral vixen, playing naturally off of Snee, her real life husband, and Anne Gottlieb is a formidable counterpart as her shrewish living rivalâ€”but the show is stolen by St. George’s Madam Arcati, a petit bundle of crazed energy, thrusting herself in and out of trances with romantic aplomb.
A further touch of frantic comedy is provided by actress Ann Waldron as Edith, the Condomine’s overanxious cockney maid, who sprints through their home like a Boston marathoner despite all cries for decorum.
Blithe indeed, for all of its morbidity and its grim view of relationships, the Lyric production of this classic comedy is spirited and fun.