Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit is the perfect match for the quirky comedic sense at Evanston’s Piccolo Theatre which boasts (truthfully!) “small theatre, big laughs”. Every time I have attended a play at this little performance space, I marvel that anyone could have possibly envisioned a theater here and then actually have done it.
Piccolo’s production of Blithe Spirit is an especially fine example of working with daunting space limitations and ultimately capitalizing on them. Director Christopher Marino (Piccolo’s Assistant Artistic Director) and his design crew must have had the time of their lives creating an elegant, formal, very British, somewhat stuffy living room and then deciding that the audience would actually be sitting in it throughout the performance.
As if that wasn’t enough, when the house opened and we were seated, we were treated to the most delightful shtick! As we were making ourselves comfortable, the maid, impressively played by Genesee Spridco, at first gave the impression that she was frantically trying to put finishing touches on the set and get off as soon as possible. It soon became apparent that we were seeing her character, Edith, unfolding before us with all her tension, insecurity and clumsiness wrapped up in incredible ineptitude and indecision. She added so much to the show. Once we realized how good Spridco was at being Edith, we were poised on the edge of our seats waiting for more antics.
We were not disappointed. Joan McGrath’s Madame Arcati, the spirited psychic/spiritualist in way over her head, made sure of that. Remember, we were sitting in the living room when she realized that the “genie was out of the bottle” and she was clueless how she did it and, importantly, how she could undo it. Intimate theater is so great for moments like this.
There we sat. An impish ghost was frolicking around the room, at least two jealous wives (we mustn’t forget the dinner guests who expected only bland entertainment), at least two confused husbands, and, well, you already know about the maid.
The actors were perfectly cast and were perfect for their characters, but Joan McGrath played Madame Arcati exactly right and over the top. She could have been pompous and insufferable. Instead—within the limits of the play—she had a certain dignified credibility and a real talent for sensitive customer service. However, there was that one flare up…
The entire cast—including the beautiful, scheming ghost—kept us intrigued, entertained and curious to learn what would happen next. Don’t worry. I’m not going to ruin it all and tell you. I will tell you this: Don’t miss it! It’s pure entertainment. Or as Piccolo Theatre says, “In this world where wit is a weapon but also a mask, truth and mystery unravel as Charles (Kevin Bishop) and Arcati (Joan McGrath) lift the spirits from limbo to levity.”
Directed by Christopher Marino (Piccolo Theatre Assistant Artistic Director);
Cast includes Piccolo Theatre Company Members:
Lauren Goode* (Ruth), Vanessa Hughes* (Mrs. Bradman), and Jason Martin* (Dr. Bradman); with Kevin Bishop (Charles), Kate McDermott (Elvira), Joan McGrath (Madame Arcati), Genesee Spridco (Edith), and Alyson Grauer, Claire Hart, and Nathan Thompson (Understudies).
*Piccolo Theatre Ensemble Member
BLITHE SPIRIT runs until May 11 at the Piccolo Theatre,600 Main Street,Evanston
All performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 PM, and Sunday at 3PM:
- $25 (adults)
- $22 (seniors)
- $15 (students)
- $10 (Children 10 and younger)
Group discounts are available for all performances.
For tickets and more information, call the Box Office at (847) 424-0089, or get tickets online.
Photos: Piccolo Theatre REP3