Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Treat yourself to ‘Blithe Spirit’ at Steel River Playhouse in Pottstown

The Seance.  Photos by Jphn Daggett

By Cheryl Thornburg

It takes very talented comedic actors to bring Noel Coward’s classic “Blithe Spirit” to life – or death as the case may be -- and director Neal Newman has rounded up some of the best this area has to offer. From a ghostly first wife to an other-worldly medium to a well-meaning, but awkward new maid, the characters in this play are guaranteed to make you laugh.
Carl Heyde and Tara McFalls
The show opened Friday and will be haunting Steel River Playhouse through Sunday Oct. 28.  
Set in the home of the well-to-do writer Charles Condomine and his second wife, Ruth, “Blithe Spirit” opens with the couple planning to host a séance that Charles hopes to use as research for his next novel. They have invited local psychic Madame Arcati and friends Dr. and Mrs. Bradman. Thus the stage is set for an outrageously funny encounter that brings Charles’ first wife Elvira back to haunt him.

Tara McFalls is mesmerizing as the capricious and flirty Elvira who is only visible to Charles, played with debonair flair by Carl Heyde, a newcomer to Steel River Playhouse.
Steel River veteran Deborah Snow is over-the-top entertaining as the flamboyant Madame Arcati.  She has a gift for physical comedy and scene-stealing.
Carl Heyde and Jennifer Dinan
Also gifted in that department is Rebecca Shoemaker who plays Edith, a clumsy, newly promoted maid. Shoemaker’s Edith is one you won’t soon forget.

Jennifer Dinan, plays the second wife, Ruth, who seems fairly normal, if snobbish, at first, but gets a chance to show her funny side in the second act after an unforeseen accident. 
The chemistry with the bigamous Condomine trio is electric. They play off of each other extremely well – especially when Ruth can’t see Elvira.
Rounding out the cast are Aaron Gould as Dr. Bradman and Teri Maxwell as his wife, who offer subtle performances that offset the key players. Betsy Chapman adds a new dimension to the production using her harp to create different moods and sound effects.
Part of the magic of a black box theater is that you never know what you’re going to walk into when you enter – it can be theater-in-the-round where the actors are totally exposed from all angles, such as in “Toys in the Attic,” or with the audience on either side of an elongated stage such as in the “The Crucible.”
This time the black box has been transformed into an old-fashioned theater setting complete with a scalloped proscenium that immediately transports you a time long ago. The set itself, designed by technical director Trop Cooper, becomes a character in the play as mysterious things begin to happen in the Condomine drawing room.
 Perfectly appointed with period furniture, it sets the tone for the entire production.

 “Blithe Spirit” continues through Oct. 28 on the main stage at the newly renovated (and renamed) Steel River Playhouse, 245 E. High St. in Pottstown. Former patrons will remember it as the Tri-County Performing Arts Center.  Remaining performances are Thursdays (Oct. 18 and 25 at 7:30 p.m., Fridays (Oct. 19 and 26 at 8 p.m.), Saturdays (Oct. 20 and 27 at 8 p.m.) and Sundays (Oct. 21 and 28 at 3 p.m
Tickets range from $17-$23.  More information and a ticketing link are available at www.steelriver.org or by calling 610-970-1199.


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