Above: Hugh Timoney, Lissa Sidoli, Angelina Fiordellisi, Peter Gaitens, Zena Gurbo and Patricia Buckley rehearse a scene from Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit at Franklin Stage Company. Photo by Steve Monosson.
Tonight, the Franklin Stage Company begins a run of arch drollery and finely turned phrasing with a free production of Blithe Spirit, a 1941 play by Noel Coward.
The plot centers on Charles Condomine, a novelist who moves about British high society with ease until an attempt to conjure material for his next book also conjures up severe paranormal distress. Thinking that hiring a medium — one Madame Arcati — will help him to explore the occult from a safe distance via a séance, Condomine instead gets reacquainted with his deceased — and extremely temperamental — first wife, whom only he can see. His current marriage is soon in jeopardy as Condomine discovers that the spirit world is something like a genie that refuses to return to its bottle.
Aficionados of acid wit and send-ups of British mores will find much to savor, the press release touting the show promises:
Noel Coward is revered for his sparkling dialogue,” says FSC Executive/Artistic Director Carmela Marner. She continues, "While there is of course no shortage of wit and wild hilarity in BLITHE SPIRIT, director Anton Dudley and I both find the play equally fascinating in its exploration of inter-personal relationships and the magical nature of human connection."
Blithe Spirit’s irreverence is all the more striking in historical context: Coward wrote it after his London apartment was bombed out during the Battle of Britain. He figured that audiences would appreciate a pure flight of fancy during dark times.
The FSC production will feature both established players and newcomers. Prominent among the latter is Agelina Fiordellisi, a former artistic director for the Cherry Lane Theatre, a Greenwich Village institution.
Those hoping to make an evening of the entertainment have a special dining option on Wednesdays and Saturdays. From 6 to 7:15pm, Fokish Farms, a regular presence at the Franklin Farmers Market, will serve a light sit-down dinner on Chapel Hill, featuring soups, salads and breads for $10. The dinner is not a function of the FSC production, so separate reservations (607-829-2721) are encouraged. Those who prefer to dine indoors can find a table at Home Town Pizza (607-829-2711).
Franklin Stage Company, Chapel Hall, 25 Institute Street, Franklin NY 607.829.3700. Blithe Spirit runs from June 29 to July 17, Wednesdays and Saturdays 8pm, Sundays 5pm. A 2pm matinee will run on Saturday, July 9. Admission is free and reservations are strongly recommended. For more info, see the show's calendar listing.