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March 15, 2005 > Blithe Spirit at Broadway West

Blithe Spirit at Broadway West

by Praveena Raman

Sir Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit opened on Friday, March 11 at Broadway West Theatre and continues until April 9. This classic comedy, written in 1941 during the time of the Nazi invasion, portrays marriage, life and death with the droll sense of humor attributed to the British. The play, a personal favorite of Coward's, ran for four years when it first opened and provided a light touch during a dark time of depression in England.

The play opens with writer Charles Condomine (Drew Campbell), an upper-crust socialite and his second wife Ruth (Dawn Cates) hosting a dinner and a sˇance by medium Madame Arcati (Paula Chenoweth) in their house to provide some research material for a novel that Charles is planning to write. Though slow to begin, the momentum picks up and the fun starts when Madame Arcati, despite the skepticism displayed by the hosts and their guests, manages to conjure up Charles' lively first wife Elvira (Doll Piccotto) from the dead.

Doll Piccotto steals the show as a delightful Elvira, sensuous and pouting at the same time, plays superbly against both Campbell and Cates. Her talent as a costume designer is also showcased beautifully in the design of the dresses that both Ruth and Elvira wear as ghosts. Drew Campbell plays the suave Charles with aplomb as Dawn Cates lends good support as Ruth. Paula Chenoweth shows her mettle as Madame Arcati while Sandy Sodos's comic rendition of the maid confirms that there is no such thing as a bit-part on stage. Special effects in the final scene are definitely worth mentioning.

The dialogue, at times, would have benefited from improved enunciation and diction. British pronunciation seemed to have been a challenge for some of the cast. In those cases, less emphasis on the pronunciation would have been better.

The play veers from the norm, set in three acts with two intermissions. Director Ross Arden Harkness does a fine job with this classic and the audience is kept entertained until the end. Following the play, an opening night gala with some delicious snacks and drinks allowed the appreciative audience to mingle and talk to the cast in a relaxed and informal atmosphere.

A must see classic, Blithe Spirit continues at Broadway West Theatre, 4000-B Bay Street, Fremont from March 17 through April 9 with shows at 8:00 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and Sunday at 1:00 p.m. For reservations call (510) 683-9218. For more information visit

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