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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Brilliant Cast Delivers Laughs in APT's 'Blithe Spirit'

Theater Review

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A sexy ghost, an eccentric medium and a supercilious man troubled by two wives, one of who has been dead for seven years, combine for an evening of unusual hilarity at American Players Theatre's production of Blithe Spirit, which opened Saturday at the Spring Green troupe's amphitheater “Up the Hill.”

The brilliant cast has tremendous fun with Nöel Coward's comedy of ill manners under the deft hand of David Frank, APT's producing artistic director and, like Coward, a Brit by birth. The dialogue crackles throughout the story of author Charles Condomine (an appropriately flummoxed Jim DeVita) and his wife, Ruth (Colleen Madden at her wound-tight best), who inadvertently conjure the ghost of Charles' first wife, Elvira (an erotically charged Deborah Staples), during a séance gone wrong. After that, little can go right for the author and his wife.

Susan Sweeney, APT's voice and text coach, does a wonderful turn as medium Madame Arcati, while the principals chew their way through nearly three hours of Coward's witty dialogue, skewering each other with obvious relish. Some of Coward's lines are lost in the rapid-fire exchanges, but the most scathing survive, to the delight of the audience.

Blithe Spirit
(through Sept. 9) may well be APT's runaway hit of the season. Whoever knew the afterlife could be so much fun?
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