English wit-master Noel Coward’s classic drawing-room comedy, “Blithe Spirit,” opens the University of Wyoming Department of Theatre and Dance 2012-2013 production season.
“The play is charming and fun,” said director by Lee Hodgson.
“But, although it’s fluff, it’s not trivial.”
Offering a respite from the ongoing bombing of London during World War II, Coward reportedly wrote 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 went to 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 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.
“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 said.
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. The language never gets old. The comedy never gets old. And the relationships certainly never get old.”