Joanna Strapp (left) and Teagan Rose in "Blithe Spirit." Photo courtesy of North Coast Rep
Noel Coward was a wordsmith of unparalleled wit and flamboyance. It’s his deliciously cutting language that distinguishes Blithe Spirit, the perpetually produced farcical comedy about a man engaged in “astral bigamy.” Charles Condomine (what a name) is curious about the occult. The hapless spiritualist he engages to satisfy that curiosity with a seance unwittingly resurrects in ghostly form his dead wife, Elvira. This proves most intolerable to Charles’ present wife, Ruth, though he himself comes to fancy the idea of having two wives.
This veddy English trifle (though it’s a two-hour, 40-minute trifle) opens North Coast Repertory Theatre’s 37th season. Theirs is a game cast directed by Rosina Reynolds, with J. Todd Adams quick and sputtering as George, Joanna Strapp simmering and exasperated as Ruth, and Teagan Rose charming as could be as ghostly Elvira. However elegantly written, however, the three-act Blithe Spirit rambles on and on. Its scenes with spiritualist Madame Arcati (Susan Denaker) are excessive, and the Charles vs. Ruth confrontations repetitive. Happily, Coward’s intended spirit of playfulness never recedes.
(Review originally published in San Diego CityBeat on 9/12/18.)
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David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.