Great Escape’s “Blithe Spirit” opens October 19
MARSHALL – Sparkling British wit will receive an extra dash of magic when Blithe Spirit is staged in October at Great Escape Stage Company. The play is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, Oct. 19-21 and 26-28, as well as Tuesday, Oct. 31, and at 2:00 p.m. Sundays, Oct. 22 and 29.
“Blithe Spirit” begins when a novelist, Charles Condomine – played by Great Escape Artistic Director Randy Lake – invites the spirit medium Madame Arcati – played by Jennifer Darling of Marshall – to his house for a séance. The medium accidentally produces the spirit of the writer’s temperamental first wife, Elvira, played by Kelly VanRyswyk of Battle Creek.
The scheming ghost refuses to leave, making life rough for the novelist and his insecure second wife, Ruth, played by Kim Forde of Marshall. The living wife must battle the unseen spiritual wife for her husband’s attention.
Other members of the cast are Mike Kinter and Georgia Marsh as the novelist’s friends, Dr. and Mrs. Bradman, and Kasey Worst as a madcap yet mysterious servant, Edith.
Penelope Katz is assistant director, costumes are being overseen by Robin Trumbull, and Joyce Kristufek is in charge of furniture and props.
“Blithe Spirit is a true theatrical classic from 1941, probably Coward’s second most-produced play after Private Lives, which was one of my favorite directorial projects some years ago,” Sherwood said. “Simply put, Blithe Spirit is a biting domestic comedy about human relationships, masked as a ghost story.”
The play is set in southeast England in the late 1930s, and Sherwood said the script calls for some magical onstage shenanigans.
To create the onstage magic, Sherwood is relying on his own background as a magician, with additional guidance from Phillip Hagerty and Ron Carnell, who are fellow members of Marshall-based Neil Foster Ring No. 89 of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.
“Blithe Spirit is one of Noel Coward’s biggest hits, an audience favorite around the world for more than half a century,” Sherwood said. “That’s because it’s a hugely imaginative fantasy that flirts with farce and black comedy with the trademark style and wit one links so strongly with Sir Noel.”
Sherwood said he has streamlined Coward’s script to focus on the action, while applying his own 50-year study of stage magic and special effects to raise the level of supernatural shenanigans throughout the play.
“Coward was a magician with his stories and humor, but not with magic itself, so the special effects he suggested are limited,” Sherwood said. “We plan to stay true to his intent, but we’ll be ramping up the ghostly fun and putting in some quirky tricks of our own.”
Another goal is to make sure none of Coward’s wry wisdom is lost, Sherwood said.
“Coward’s humor is based on some of his unique ideas about life, love, death and what can only be called moral ambiguity,” he said. “The result is that this play definitely has literary meat on its bones, plus a psychological attitude that flatly dissects why people can’t get along with each other.
“In fact, Coward claimed he deliberately made all of his characters pretty awful people,” Sherwood said. “If you liked them, you’d think that his story was tragic and unhappy. But because it happens to people who are all deeply annoying and self-absorbed, what happens to them is extremely funny – and their fate is satisfyingly well deserved. Audiences have been agreeing with Sir Noel for 70 years.”
Tickets and more information are available at GreatEscapeStageCompany.com or by calling (269) 781-2700.