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SHERMAN — “Parting is such sweet sorrow.” This was certainly true at the tumultuous conclusion of a performance last weekend of Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit, which is being given excellent treatment by Sherman Players. No one can put a finish on words like the British, and no British playwright uses wordplay to comedic effect better than the divine Mr Coward. Offering a spirited (literally) take on marriage, Mr Coward mines his subject for the humor in this complicated institution.
Staged on an elegantly appointed set which perfectly portrays a country estate, Director Katherine Almquist has guided a superb cast to its frustrated, otherworldly and hysterical best. Ms Almquist has a true appreciation for the art of theater, and it is evident in her selection of the plays in which she chooses to perform and direct, as well as the skill and thoughtfulness she applies to her efforts.
From its opening scene — that of the delightful young domestic, Edith (played by Lauren Hoag), irresistibly dancing to the music on the Victrola — the whimsy is afoot.
Enter the occupants of this domain, Ruth Condomine and her husband Charles (Kit Colbourn and Michael Wright, respectively). Charles is a writer. In order to gain some useful insight and jargon for his next book, which is to be about mediums of some sort, he has invited the town psychic, Madame Arcati (Patricia Michael), over to hold a séance.
Madame Arcati is an eccentric, energetic mystic with an eclectic wardrobe, who unwittingly causes quite a stir. Rounding out the gathering, or so Charles thought, are dear friends, the Dr and Mrs Bradman (Steve Stott and Lynn Nissenbaum).
While thinking this a lark, and a ruse, to get some information for his novel, Charles is flabbergasted when his dead wife Elvira (Gillian Previn) appears in his living room. He is the only one who can see and hear her. Her ghostly appearance and seductive discourse drive him to distraction. The others think him mad, particularly Ruth, who is completely disconcerted by her husband’s dismissive and stinging outbursts.
All reason flies out the French doors while Charles, Ruth and Elvira hash out their new living arrangements. It is extremely entertaining to watch these splendid actors play off of each other with wit and verve that is completely consistent with their characters. Not one false note.
Kit Colbourn is simply excellent as Ruth. She has every opportunity to ham up this role and yet fulfills her duty to her character and the play with subtlety and grace. She is a powerful performer who is completely believable.
Playing her husband, who for a moment develops a taste for this heavenly ménage a trois, Michael Wright conveys a broad range of feelings from frustrated to flattered with authenticity and terrific comic timing.
Patricia Michael’s Madame Arcati is wide-eyed, energetic and in love with her craft. She is a gifted actor who thoroughly embraces the opportunity to play this iconic role. She is a joy to watch.
Newcomer Lauren Hoag’s Edith is adorable and charming.
Playing Elvira as a pajama clad phantom with a listless and alluring physicality, Gillian Previn is totally convincing.
The Bradmans are cordial and confused as their friends dissemble. Steve Stott and Lynn Nissenbaum execute these roles perfectly.
“I’m in Heaven,” and you will be too if you get yourself to The Sherman Playhouse to catch this divinely entertaining theater classic.
(Performances continue weekends to May 22. Curtain is Friday and Saturday at 8 pm. Matinees are planned for Sunday, May 8, and Saturday, May 21, at 2 pm.
Tickets are $22 and can be purchased online at shermanplayers.org.
Sherman Playhouse is at 5 Route 39 North. Call 860-354-3622 or visit the theater company’s website for additional information.)