But in his day Coward was regarded as a great playwright.
“None of the great figures of the English theatre has been more versatile than he,” The Times of London said, comparing Coward to such masters as Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw.
Perhaps the best of Coward’s many plays is “Blithe Spirit,” currently being performed at the Alhambra Theatre & Dining.
The play, which opened both in London’s West End theater district and on Broadway in 1941, has been regularly revived over the years.
“Blithe Spirit” has elements of farce. But ultimately it is a black drawing room comedy, extremely funny, sophisticated and as dark as a moonless night. The action is triggered when novelist Charles Condomine, who is planning to write a book about spiritual mediums, invites the eccentric Madame Arcati to his house to conduct a seance.
Nobody takes the situation very seriously. But when the seance is over, the spirit of Condomine’s deceased first wife, Elvira, appears. But only Condomine can see and hear Elvira, which leads to farce when their conversations are overheard by Condomine’s second wife, Ruth, who thinks he’s talking to her. Complications ensue.
The Alhambra’s cast is first rate. Lisa Valdini plays Madame Arcati as a lovable ditz. Jessica Booth, who is the daughter of Valdini and director Tod Booth, is a wonderfully willful Elvira. Laura Hodos and David Arrow are very British as the insecure Ruth and caddish Charles.
It all makes for a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
Charlie Patton: (904) 359-4413