Blithe Spirit is great entertainment -- and you can talk about it today

Blithe Spirit, now showing at the Arvada Center, doesn't mean anything. It's not a critique of upper-class society or an evocative exploration of the border between the living and the dead -- despite all the ghostly goings-on. Even though Noel Coward wrote the play in 1941 when bombs were dropping on London, there are no socio-political ramifications here, nor do the characters reveal unexpected emotional depths. It's just great entertainment, funny, elegant and brilliantly verbal.

And there's a talk-back after today's matinee during which audience members will be able to discuss with the cast their ideas about just what the play does or doesn't signify, what they think about their characters, and how it feels to be involved in this playful, light-as-air endeavor. See also: - The vote is in: Vintage Theatre's RFK is a smash, and extends its run - Laura Norman is back on a Colorado stage in Ghost-Writer - Motherhood Out Loud is a charming evening of theater

Charles Condomine is a writer married to stern and punctilious Ruth. At the play's opening they're discussing the local psychic, Madame Arcati, whom Charles has invited to the house in the spirit of purest mockery and as part of his research for a novel. Arcati arrives and proves just as dotty as Charles expected. She soon has everyone seated around a table while she creates all the usual seance tricks: table tapping, trances, and the summoning up of a sulky child medium called Daphne. Unfortunately for Charles, however, Arcati is the real thing despite all her dottiness. The French doors fly open on a great gust of wind and the pale ghost of Charles's first wife Elvira appears in the room. Mayhem ensues.

Charles doesn't actually give a damn about either of his two wives, showing no grief for his losses or joy at his reunions, only mild irritation when his routines are disrupted. We're guessing Coward, who was known to be gay, wouldn't have gone much for either woman, though he might have cast an admiring eye over Elvira's figure and respected Ruth's strength. "I've been hag-ridden all my life," Charles observes just before the play's wonderfully anarchic ending.

This production, directed by Rod. A. Lansberry, provides many pleasures, among them a strong cast, an elegant and impeccable set by Brian Mallgrave and Chris Campbell's stunning costumes.

Blithe Spirit runs through February 17 in the Black Box Theater at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, with performances at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and 1 p.m. on Wednesday. There will be a talk-back program after the 1 p.m. show today. For more information, go to the Arvada website or call 720-898-7200.

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Juliet Wittman is an investigative reporter and critic with a passion for theater, literature, social justice and food. She has reviewed theater for Westword for over a decade; for many years, she also reviewed memoirs for the Washington Post. She has won several journalism awards and published essays and short stories in literary magazines. Her novel, Stocker's Kitchen, can be obtained at select local bookstores and on Amazon.
Contact: Juliet Wittman

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