June 18, 2004





Honoring Noel Coward's spirit


The splendid and pointless new production of Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit" at the Globe Playhouse gets just about everything right: From Mark A. Thomson's finely dressed drawing room set, its sage walls lovingly illuminated by Derrick McDaniels' lights, to Shon LeBlanc's resplendent, nattily tailored costumes, the production couldn't look better.


And with a seasoned cast under Gwen Hillier's direction, it all sounds and moves about right too. As the contentedly married Condomines, Anne McVey and Nicholas Hosking have a genteel, amiably irritable rapport that starts the show buzzing along like a classic BBC2 sitcom.


It keeps on purring through the introduction of a friendly older couple (neatly underplayed by Richard Fox and Marsha Kramer) and the grand entrance of dotty spiritualist Madame Arcati (given a dry, bubbly rendition by Mary Jo Catlett).


By the first scene's end, this dubious medium's seance has summoned from the "other side" the late first Mrs. Condomine--a pouty blonde coquette named Elvira (Tracy Powell) whose specter only her still-smitten husband can see or hear.


The battle between this lucky fellow's two wives, living and dead, is the play's setup--and its punch line, and indeed pretty much the whole ball of wax. It's a gossamer thread to hang a full evening of theatre on, and the strain is visible.


Certainly plot isn't what drives Coward's plays. Their true heartbeat is the rhythm of cocktails being mixed and served on a stage dotted with witty talkers. By that standard, this production honors the spirit of Coward. If only it didn't follow the letter.

--Rob Kendt


"Blithe Spirit," Cowardice Theatre Company at the Globe Playhouse, 1107 N. Kings Road, W. Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Ends June 26. (323) 960-7792. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.