Wilkes University Theatre opens the doors to supernatural hijinks and hilarity with its production of Blithe Spirit at 8 p.m. on Oct. 5, 6 and 7, and 2 p.m. on Oct. 7 and 8, at the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center for the Performing Arts.
The Noel Coward comedy offers an otherworldly love triangle featuring writer Charles Condomine, his wife, Ruth, and his late wife, Elvira, accidentally summoned by the quirky medium, Madame Arcati. When Elvira’s plan to reunite with Charles goes awry, Ruth’s vengeance throws the Condomine house into turmoil, providing far more firsthand research into the occult than Charles bargained for.
Audiences have been chuckling at the Condomines’ unusual predicament for more than 80 years. Blithe Spirit premiered in London in 1941, running for nearly 2,000 performances. The comedy hit Broadway later that year with revivals in 1987 and 2009. Charles and his wives also graced the silver screen with a 1945 film directed by David Lean and a 2020 version directed by Edward Hall.
Associate Professor Jon Liebetrau, who serves as the director for the Wilkes production, explains the comedy’s long-lasting appeal. “It’s a play about human relationships and interpersonal needs under extreme circumstances. Human relationships and our basic needs are universal and haven’t changed since the beginning of human existence, just the trappings change,” says Liebetrau. “Obviously, the main circumstance of the play, the return of a past spouse in spirit form, which is not a universal occurrence, creates the comic hijinks of the play.”
Blithe Spirit fits the bill for the Wilkes theatre season because it provides new challenges for the students. The British farce requires the cast to engage in energetic, high-spirited exchanges while remaining true to the stylistic dialogue.
The cast includes students Caleb Flannery, Kasey Karoll, Bella Ruiz, Rachel Kern, Cally Williams, Kaiden Harris and Olivia Scarborough. According to Liebetrau, the cast has risen to the challenge of the dialect and period British behaviors associated with their characters. “What pleasantly surprised me was how quickly the actors picked up the rhythms and behaviors of the British in this comedy,” says Liebetrau. “I guess the actors have had time well spent watching movies like Harry Potter and shows like Downton Abbey.”
The production also presents challenges from the design perspective, with its demands for period costumes, realistic box set living room and supernatural effects on stage. The design team has stepped up to create an accurate post-Edwardian household, putting in hours of research and building, with an extra dose of ingenuity for spooky stage happenings.
The production features scenic and lighting design by Vandy Scoates, costume design by Lisa Streett-Liebetrau, and sound design and technical direction by Lee Michaels. Mya Banegas serves as stage manager, with Evan Cole and Isabella Mendez as assistant stage managers.
For a serving of laughter with British flair, join Wilkes University Theatre and the Condomines for dinner. Purchase tickets for Blithe Spirit by calling the box office at 570-408-4540. Tickets are $15 general admission, $10 for students/senior citizens and free with ID for Wilkes students, faculty and staff.