Review: Blithe Spirit
Reviewed by Tony Annicone, June 3, 2022
Mass Art Center’s current production is “Blithe Spirit”, a farce by Noel Coward. This show focuses around Charles Condomine, a skeptical novelist of Provincetown, MA. In search of inspiration for his new novel, Charles invites self proclaimed medium and local eccentric Madame Arcati to his home for a seance. When the hapless psychic ends up in contact with the spirit of his first husband, Lucien, who makes his presence well known, much to the consternation of his second husband, Richard. Soon his life and home are in a shambles as the ghost haunts Charles and his new spouse. Add their doctor, his husband and a dippy, half-witted house boy to the ingredients of this farce.
Director Daniel Kosar adapts the play Coward wrote in 1941 which was set in England. He changes location to Provincetown, MA and makes it a gay fantasia but still celebrates its outrageous attitude toward death with the Noel Coward type humor. It is now set in modern day. Daniel picks seven topnotch performers for these madcap roles and they deliver the laughs in spades all night long.
Daniel blocks the show beautifully and obtains strong performances in these roles. Ken Butler designed the gorgeous and ornate set and the beautiful costumes are by Daniel. The lighting design also by Ken Butler and the multitude of props are by Gail Gilman including delicious looking breakfast food.
Playing the lead role of Charles Condomine is Joe Rich who not only delivers his lines with the right demeanor but delivers his over 700 lines excellently, too. He is wonderful playing this enormous role, capturing the pompous behavior of a well respected author. Joe has a lot of chemistry with the other cast members, delivers his lines with high energy and commands the stage in this role.
Bradley Robinson does a fabulous job as the worried and put upon second spouse, Richard, who gets caught up in Lucien’s web of deceit. As Richard, he must contend with Lucien’s crazy antics, Charles’ strange behavior and Madame Arcati’s wacky tantrums. Bradley makes the audience empathize with Richard’s predicament.
Chris Crossen-Sills plays mischievous first husband Lucien, wonderfully. He is clad in a white shirt and lounging pants. He returns to claim Charles for his own again. Lucien carries a vase with flowers, turns on the cell phone playing “Dancing Queen” and loves scaring Richard who can’t see him. He gives the audience many laughs at his wild and crazy antics as well as his comical facial expressions.
The biggest scene stealer in this show is Sally Graves as Madame Arcati. She wins many laughs during her scenes and wins a long ovation on her first two exits. Is Madame Arcati a physic or not? Sally screams, yells and faints while conducting seances to help Charles get rid of Lucien. Her reactions when he blows in her ears and her breathing in and out scene behind the sofa is priceless.
Larry Beecher and Daniel Kozar(who does double duty in the show) play Dr. and Lee Bradman who witness the first seance when Lucien comes back to life. They deliver energetic performances as this bickering couple at the seance and are hilarious in the second act. Xandria Try Change plays the scatterbrained house boy, Eddie. Eddie’s running back and forth to answer the door as well as the hidden secret in the last scene has to be seen to be believed. It brings back happy memories for me having directed it back in 1981 and 2006.
So for a delightful trip to some madcap and wild times in Provincetown, be sure to catch “Blithe Spirit” at Mass Arts Center before the ghosts disappear for good.
For tickets go to www.massartscenter.org
BLITHE SPIRIT (2 to 12 June)
MASS Arts Center, 888 South Main St., Mansfield, MA