What do you get when you take one socialite novelist and place him in a house with not only his current wife but also the ghost of his first late wife whom only he can see? The answer is a farce that is ripe with comedy and physical humor from beginning to end.
This March, the Ladysmith Little Theatre is conjuring up Blithe Spirit, Noel Coward’s most produced comedy, written during the Second World War.
Featuring a spectacular cast including Greg Heide, Pamela Walker and Pat Zogar, Blithe Spirit is set in the 1930s and tells the story of Charles Condomine (Heide), an upper-class novelist who has invited the eccentric medium Madame Arcati (Zogar) into his home for a seance so he can gather background information for his latest book. He is joined by his second wife Ruth (played by Lynnia Clark) and their friends the Bradmans (played by Bill Young and Mary Lou Reside).
However, Condomine gets more than he bargained for, as director Mort Paul explains.
“In the course of the seance, Arcoti brings back his first wife, Elvira. He’s the only one who can see her, but she haunts both him and his second wife,” he said.
The plot thickens as Arcati cannot seem to undo the deed of awakening the clever and insistent Elvira (Walker) and Condomine is caught in a number of misunderstandings between his current and former wives.
“He’s trying to have the best of both worlds; he’s caught between being very practical and rational on the one hand, and also trying to accommodate this ghost that only he can see,” said Heide. “It’s interesting to see him go from this conservative bit of a cad to where he starts to crumble in front of your eyes … There’s this upper-class snobby English veneer that he has to present to the world, yet underneath, he’s a entirely different person all together.”
The nature of the supernatural and the era in Blithe Spirit has provided a unique challenge for the cast and crew.
Paul says there will be a number of must-see special effects during the play, and the set has been turned on its side to offer a different view of the terrace and living room.
“We’ve tried to give it a sense of the 1930s by making it semi-art-deco and be as true as we can to the play and make it exciting for the audience,” he said. “We have lots of fun and tricks and yet make it all believable — as believable as a ghost story can be.”
In addition to those challenges, Paul, who was asked to step in as director, had a pre-scheduled three-week vacation to take during rehearsals. During that time, assistant director Stephen Lewis stepped up to the plate to run the 10 rehearsals in his stead.
Heide said the role of Charles Condomine has been one of the most complex he has ever played.
Along with some of his co-stars, he has been working since December to get all of the lines down.
“There’s a lot of lines, and I’m probably in the play about 80 per cent of the time,” he said. “The way things are worded and the language itself makes it difficult to memorize it word for word. But pretty much everybody that’s in the play, I know quite well, and that just makes it that much more comfortable being on the stage.”
Completing the cast is 14-year-old Kyra Moore as Edith the maid. Paul says Moore is the only member of the cast he has not worked with in previous productions.
“She’s been very mature and has learned her part well with lots of good energy,” he said.
The Ladysmith Little Theatre production of Blithe Spirit will be presented as true to the original script as possible. Paul says audiences will enjoy its lighthearted humor and physical comedy.
“It’s good old-fashioned fun, and if they go in with that feeling, I’m sure they’re going to have a good time,” he said.
Blithe Spirit runs March 5-7, 12-14 and 19-21 at 8 p.m. (doors open at 7:30). There will also be two matinee performances at 2 p.m. on March 15 and 22 (doors open at 1:30 p.m.).
Tickets are $20 each for non-members or $18 each for members and groups of 10 or more.
For more information or ticket purchases, visit www.ladysmiththeatre.com or call the box office at 250-924-0658.