Back in my more athletic days of street hockey/baseball/football; High School water-polo; college fencing & finally competitive yacht racing; I admit to being intimidated when up against “A” team players. So; a little empathy for Sara Topham, Ben Carlson; & Michelle Giroux. They have to play opposite Seana McKenna in Coward’s BLITHE SPIRIT. Under impeccable direction by Brian Bedford…they more than just hold their own!
Photo by David Hou
The plot requires abandoning credibility [even for folks like us whose century home comes with an established ghost!]. Playwright Charles wants to glean some background for an upcoming novel. He and 2nd wife Ruth, hire a psychic for a séance with another couple as guests. Madame Arcati (McKenna) succeeds and the deceased first wife’s apparition appears; but is visible only to her husband. Wife two thinks he’s going bonkers; dead –ish Elvira (wife 1) plans mischief.
McKenna steals every scene with her border-line hamminess and scenery chewing. Even her costumes present innate comedic detailing. Ben Carlson’s reading of the harassed husband is heavy on flawless phrasing with pauses & asides worthy of a Sinatra recording. Topham’s morphing from sophisticate and cool second wife, to an irrational harridan facing a challenge she can’t understand or overcome is pure thespian artistry. In this role, Ms. T projects her character’s psyche utilizing total deportment – an adjective this writer rarely incorporates. As her counterpart; Michelle Giroux interprets her manifestation character as slightly patronizing permitting her to utilize her mobile face to advantage.
The support roles of dinner guests Wendy Thatcher & James Blendick are played in a more serious- manner with only a few comedic comments thus adding to the Mr. interlocutor /Mr. Bones gambit. The maid is Susie Burnett and she’s a hoot as she over compensates in order to meet her employer’s edicts.
We had a sense of déjà vu from the impact of Simon Higlett’s detailed set. Post-curtain, we realized that it evoked the drawing room/conservatory of one of our Oakville friend’s homes! The perfectly tailored and period correct costumes by Katherine Lubienski are about as visually good as it gets.
Director Brian Bedford is another of our theatre heroes. We’ve relished his acting, and respected his directorial talents. With Blithe Spirit, Bedford’s innate sensitivity and appreciation for clever dialogue adds a hint of credibility to what is intrinsically an incredulous & impossible charade. The play’s three acts offer two intermissions and a surprising number of the almost full house left before the denouement third act. Read the program notes – folks.
BLITHE SPIRIT is at the AVON until Oct. 20th,
As is our wont, visits to Stratford offer an opportunity to experience the local dining establishments; especial those who utilize the indigenous produce. This trip, we selected DEMETRE’S (pronounced Dimitri’s) located at 100 Ontario Street. It’s a family run operation that offers a cozy environment; veteran staff; overly generous portions [especially the desserts] and a lower-than-expected impact to the wallet. I chose the French onion soup & veal parmigiana; Terry the house specialty of liver & onions. Her soup was carrot & turnip- both were delicious. Witnessing the Wednesday evening full house, we recommend reserving. 519-272-0515