Sunday, January 23, 2011

Through the Opera Glasses - 70 - Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit at Neptune Theatre

What do I spy through my opera glasses this week?

A sparkling comedy by Noel Coward, now playing at Neptune Theatre in Halifax and running from January 18th to February 13th.

Neptune is located at the corner of Argyle and Sackville streets. Bringing professional theatre productions to Halifax audiences since 1963, with a history of previous live performances including vaudeville in the same location since 1915, Neptune is a Maritime jewel and a cultural landmark for which any East Coast arts lover holds great affection.

Observe my contented visage as my husband and I made our way into the lobby. I'd picked up our tickets on my lunch hour, which gave us time to meet up after work for dinner before popping into a favorite haunt and then take in the show. As I've mentioned previously here at A Piece of My Mind, those are the ingredients of a perfect day:

- anticipation of a live performance
- dinner
- the show
- some wandering about the city for an added element of perfection

Both my husband Brad and I really enjoyed the play. Our current Supernatural obsession makes Blithe Spirit the perfect play to break up our daily doses of Dean and Sam Winchester.

The story in a nutshell: to research psychic mediums for his next novel, writer Charles Condomine invites Madame Arcati to his home for a seance. However, the medium successfully pulls the spirit of Charles' first wife Elvira back from the Other Side, leading to a territorial showdown between the past and present Mrs. Condomines.

Brad, being a graduate of Toronto's New School of Drama, enjoyed a taste of live theatre for a change from his regular cinephile screenings. He laughed out loud several times (he's not overly-prone to such giggling,) mentioning afterwards that the performances were all strong ones.

As for me, I already knew I would enjoy Blithe Spirit, having seen a production once before. Noel Coward's play is filled with enough wit to be entertaining even as a script-read-through, no sets/costumes/performances necessary.

But the joy of the theatre is settling into my seat to be transported into the story, and words alone don't make the theatre experience.

I'm always impressed by the set designers for Neptune productions - they work with a small stage and never fail to make it seem four times as big. Geofrey Dinwiddie has created an English country manor house that seems cozy enough for the romantic farce elements, and spooky enough for the ghost story to come with its Gothic arches hanging from the proscenium.

Mr. Dinwiddie must have had a great time rigging the set for its displays of otherworldly presences - a smashing good time, I dare say.

Check out the marvelous costume designs by Patrick Clark, showcased by blogging team Haute Halifax:

Spirited theatre fashion

I especially loved Elvira-the-Blithe-Spirit's frothy white Carole Lombard gown.

Here is the merest of tastes of the delightful wit of Mr. Coward:

Ivan Sherry as Charles Condamine

Ruth: You must promise not to catch my eye. If I giggle - and I'm very likely to - it will ruin everything.

Charles: You mustn't. You must be dead serious and if possible a little intense. We can't hurt the old girl's feelings, however funny she is.

Ruth: But why the Bradmans, darling? He's as sceptical as we are. He'll probably say the most dreadful things.

Charles: I've warned him. There must be more than three people and we couldn't have the Vicar and his wife because (a) they're dreary, and (b) they probably wouldn't have approved at all.

Martha Irving as Ruth Condomine

Margot Dionne as Madame Arcati

Madame Arcati: Fortunately an Elemental at this time of the year is unlikely.

Ruth: What do Elementals do?

Madame Arcati: Oh my dear, one can never tell. They're dreadfully unpredictable. Usually they take the form of a very cold wind.

Mrs. Bradman: I don't think I should like that.

Madame Arcati: Occasionally reaching almost hurricane velocity.

Ruth: You don't think it would be a good idea to take the more breakable ornaments off the mantlepiece before we start?

Marla McLean as Elvira Condomine,
the Blithe Spirit herself

There are still several weeks left of the Halifax run. Take a break from your normal everyday and treat yourself to a slice of my favorite taste of life: an audience settling in, the lights dimming, the first footsteps as the actors step onstage...


Monkey Man said...

That was a fun critique of your fine theater. Thanks for stopping by to visit my blog and comment on the Sunday 160. Hope to see you again.

Shelley Munro said...

It sounds as if you had a fun time at the theatre. I haven't seen Blithe Spirit, but love a good comedy. LOL about the Supernatural watching. It's just started again down here in NZ. I think we're a series behind.

Charlene said...

That sounds like a show I would enjoy and it seems you did as well! Thanks for sharing your experience!

Akelamalu said...

Sounds like a perfect evening. :)

M. said...

I love your essential ingredients for a great day. I'm glad you two had such a nice time.

Travis Cody said...

I'm familiar with this play, although I've never seen it performed. If I was more than a 3,000 mile plane trip away, I'd consider recreating your lovely evening!

SandyCarlson said...

That was fun, personal, insightful. Thanks for this and for piquing my interesting in this play.

Renee Field said...

Julia I loved that blog. Great that you could showcase the actors. I would love two tickets for hubby and I if you still have them...if not don't worry about it. I would love to blog about it also on my own blog but also on the Rockingham blogspot