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High spirits and hijinks abound in English wit-master Noel Coward’s classic drawing-room comedy, “Blithe Spirit,” that opens the University of Wyoming Department of Theatre and Dance 2012-2013 production season.
Directed by Lee Hodgson, “Blithe Spirit” runs Oct. 2-6 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 7 at 2 p.m. on the Fine Arts main stage. Tickets cost $14 for the public, $11 for senior citizens and $7 for students. For tickets and information, call (307) 766-6666 or go online at www.uwyo.edu/finearts.
“The play is charming and fun, and is a great way to start the theatre season,” says director Hodgson. “But, although it’s fluff, it’s not trivial.”
Offering a respite from the ongoing bombing of London during WWII, Coward reportedly dashed off in five short days his “improbable farce” about connubial love past and present. The play ran for nearly 2,000 performances on London’s West End in 1941, hugely raising wartime spirits following the Blitz. Soon after, the play was the toast of Broadway. It has since enjoyed many revivals, including an award-winning 2009 Broadway production featuring Angela Lansbury.
The story concerns urbane novelist and socialite Charles Condomine, and his wife, Ruth, who invite the eccentric medium Madame Arcati to their house to conduct a séance as grist for a new book. The couple gets more than they bargained for when an uninvited guest from the great beyond -- Charles’ temperamental first wife Elvira -- crashes their light-hearted after-dinner affair. So begins a delightfully cosmic clash of personalities both worldly and otherwise.
Hodgson says he selected the piece as much for the demands it places on actors and the themes it explores as for its popularity with audiences.
“Coward’s plays are so beautifully written that they might sound easy to execute, but they are really a challenge for the performers, and the relationships are still very pertinent, still very edgy, and relevant to modern-day audiences,” Hodgson says.
For example, he notes that for a woman of that time to be a partner in her husband’s writing, as Ruth is, was really something extraordinary, but very organic to Coward’s play world.
“Noel Coward never really observed or wrote about a ‘woman‘s place in the home’ or gender roles directly. Instead, he challenged the norms of society using comedy and wit,” says Hodgson. “The language never gets old. The comedy never gets old. And the relationships certainly never get old.”