NY1 Theater Review: "Blithe Spirit"
Celebrated star of stage and screen, Angela Lansbury is back on Broadway in "Blithe Spirit." David Cote of Time Out New York filed the following review.
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Broadway will always have its ghosts. They say the specters of past troupers and producers hover through the back alleys and theaters of the Great White Way. Well, now there's another apparition to be found on the Rialto, and it's frightfully funny. The play is "Blithe Spirit", the champagne-light supernatural farce by Noel Coward, and it should continue to haunt the Shubert for a good long time.
Starring Rupert Everett as novelist Charles Condomine and Jayne Atkinson as his second wife, Ruth, this revival of "Blithe Spirit" has been expertly staged by London veteran Michael Blakemore. The plot: Charles and Ruth throw a dinner party where they invite a local medium, Madame Arcati, since Charles is researching the world of séances. Arcati is played by none other than the legendary Angela Lansbury and really, this is your chance to see a theatrical icon late in her career, delivering a daffy, freewheeling comic performance.
Like a dotty grandmother decked out in bohemian drag, Lansbury finds all manner of endearingly bizarre business in her arcane rituals for contacting the dead. But that's not all. The quartet of lead roles is rounded out by Christine Ebersole when Charles' sexy, scheming first wife, Elvira, materializes from the great beyond and promptly tries to run his life. Only Charles can see or hear Elvira, leading to all sorts of misunderstandings. Coward proceeds to shake up these intoxicating ingredients as only a master martini-maker can.
Besides the excellent principals, Susan Louise O'Connor makes an amusing Broadway debut as the excitable servant Edith, adorable Simon Jones is on hand as Doctor Bradman and Deborah Rush fills out the cast as his slightly thick wife. Together cast and director strike the perfect tone of archness and silliness, debonair wit and impish glee.
Coward called his work "an improbable farce," and, if you think of the period, 1941, as London was being Blitzed by the Nazis, a play linking death with laughter does indeed seem improbable. But "Blithe Spirit was and remains a midcentury comedy classic, and stands more than a ghost of a chance of thoroughly delighting.