Blithe Spirit
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Wendell H. Wilson

Blithe Spirit, now playing at Ross Valley Players, first opened in London during World War II in July 1941. Noel Coward wrote the play “when the daily bombings of the Blitz were devastating London,” said director Robert Wilson. “Coward carefully avoided any mention of the war in this play, although it must have been in his thoughts as he wrote it in Wales where he had gone to escape the bombings. It was a morale builder and hugely successful on the West End, and later around the world. At a time when his nation was threatened and in great fear, this light and frothy fantasy was a tonic to thousands.”

The story is about novelist Charles Condomine (Ron Severdia) and his wife Ruth (Robyn Wiley) who invite a bicycle-riding medium, Madame Arcati (Lynn-Audrey Tijerina), to give a séance at their house. During the course of the séance Charles’ prior wife, who died seven years ago, appears to Charles and refuses to leave. Since Elvira (Marianne Shine) is visible to only Charles and the audience, there is plenty of room for awkward comic moments between Charles and Ruth where Charles is talking to Elvira but Ruth thinks he’s talking to her. Jealously quickly develops between the two wives and all Charles wants is to escape on a long vacation from both women.

Noel Coward fans will probably enjoy this comedy, but in spite of a valiant effort by Ross Valley Players and a stunning set design, this play comes across as very dated to today’s audience.

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