When was the last time you saw a stage production with multiple seances? When was the last time you saw a play where every character plays a significant role in the story? When was the last time you saw a play where death is discussed constantly and all you can do is laugh?
Volcano Theatre Company’s production of “Blithe Spirit” is one of the best I have had the pleasure of seeing for a number of reasons. Straightforward and honest performances from an amazing cast, not to mention perfect costumes, makeup, well-suited sound and lighting, along with some fantastic special effects, all work together for a perfectly timed amusing, enlightening and, most importantly, fun time at the Cobblestone Theatre, 16138 Main Street in Volcano — which honestly is a perfect theater and added character for this show. There are a number of laugh out loud moments in this production.
Maya Mireles as Edith gives the maid real character from her first awkward entrance garnering laughs and leading you into a production that isn’t forced but honest and open, and well, just downright funny.
Ruth, played by Amber Adams, has sweet moments with Edith, works hard on her relationship with her husband, Charles, who takes her to the edge of sanity and composure. Which may not sound like lots of laughs, but it is — and then some.
Todd Bertwell’s take on the character of Charles shows us what happens when you have to accept an uncertain future and attempt to live the cards you’ve been dealt. Everyone suffers. Doesn’t sound like fun does it? Yet once again, hilarious.
Dr. Bradman, played by Jim Caudle, and Violet Bradman, played by Michelle Checkley, have often been seen as just filler characters or a forced way to get to the next laugh. In this production they shine and not only provide a path for the story, but blaze a trail with their own moments. Intricate, clever and exactly what has been missing in so many other productions of this play.
Which brings me to my — well, hate to call them favorites, because as stated this ensemble cast shines — let’s say, players to watch.
Elvira, played by Alana Hein, flows and proves a haunting and petulant presence in “Blithe Spirit.” A supernatural, quicksilver, this is one ghost who can haunt the Cobblestone Theatre all she likes. Audiences are all the happier for it.
Madam Arcati can, and quite often has, stolen the show many times. Beth Barnard plays every funny bit of Madam Arcati and her funny situations and ridiculous reactions from a place of honestly and believability. A genius move that works character rather than caricature, something less talented actors have missed. The result is a rich, full, and remarkable performance that allows the entire cast to not only participate, but elevate their own performances. Why steal the show when you can build a stronger one for those around you?
As a first-time director, Margaret Lewis made some brilliant choices, and also brave additions. Updating the timeline of the story works flawlessly. I thought staging would be an issue for such a grand and known play. Instead, every detail comes together to get you involved and the intimate atmosphere and proximity to the action carries you like a ghost into the Condomine home and the vision of a director that knew exactly where she wanted to go — and takes you along for one hilarious haunt. I get chills thinking about it.
Running now through October 15 on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. (new time), and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m., Volcano Theatre Company’s production of Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit” is a theatrical triumph and a show not to be missed. But don’t take my word for it, get your tickets at volcanotheatre.net or call 209-419-0744. If you want to see a great show, I’d say it’s time to get in the spirit — “Blithe Spirit” — now playing at the Cobblestone Theatre, 16138 Main Street in Volcano. But get your tickets fast before they sell out!