Blithe Spirit is the perfect show for Capital Repertory Theatre to have chosen to end their season (and for the spring); it’s a well-loved, light show, with many technical gasp-worthy moments. If not done well, it easily falls flat – however, this production, starring some of our best local actors and directed by theREP’s Producing Artistic Director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill, is absolutely top-notch.
Charles Condomine (Gary Lindemann), a writer, needs to research the occult for his latest novel. He and his wife Ruth (Brenny Rabine) invite over the local medium, Madame Arcati (Eileen Schuyler) for a dinner party, where she performs a séance with an unexpected outcome: it actually works. Charles’ first wife Elvira (Yvonne Perry), dearly departed for 7 years, is now part of the household – and Madame Arcati has no idea how to send her back.
Where to begin with this cast? Perry, Schuyler and Rabine, all on one stage. What an utter delight. Perry’s Elvira is ethereal with a sarcastic bite, flitting around the stage like a fairy with hidden agenda. Schuyler’s take on the wacky medium is more down-to-earth than I’ve seen, and it absolutely suits her, making her less of a joke and more of a three-dimensional character – but don’t think she doesn’t bring the humor, because she absolutely does. Rabine plays Ruth with a steel backbone, slowly succumbing to the chaos bringing her house down; her antics in her final scene are glorious. Lindemann holds them all together with aplomb; it’s a bit of a thankless part, playing the straight man with all of these glorious women, and he does the part proud. Kelsey Torstveit, as Edith, the maid, was an audience favorite; something as small as setting the table or bringing out the drinks had everyone in stitches. Her physical comedy is spot-on. John Romeo and Elisabeth Henry, as Dr. and Mrs. Bradman, did fine work as well, especially in the séance scene.
Brian Prather’s set design is sumptuous – what an absolutely gorgeous set. I’m a sucker for a chandelier, and this set has a beauty, sending wedges of light everywhere; the huge mirror center stage is stunning. This set has to be full of little technical tricks – it is a show about a haunting, after all – and Prather more than delivers, along with some gasp-worthy lighting and projection work by Travis McHale. I’ve never seen technical work like this on this show, and honestly, going into it, I wasn’t prepared to be surprised. I’m so glad I was wrong, and I thank everyone involved for bringing new life into this for me.
Howard Tvsi Kaplan’s costumes were perfect for each character – Elvira’s flowing dress (oh, that dress!), Ruth’s gorgeous ‘40s suits, Madame Arcati’s occult getup – and Michael Dunn’s wigs were a beautiful accompaniment.
Even if you’ve seen this before (and I know almost everyone has), I recommend you see this production; it’s not what you’re expecting. You may know the story, but this is a true feast for the eyes, and you’ll be so glad you gave yourself this treat.
“Blithe Spirit,” Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N. Pearl St., Albany; through May 6; $62.50 – $20; Run time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with a 15-minute intermission; http://www.capitalrep.org/