Blithe Spirit opens April 13 at Purdue

Apr 11, 2012

Purdue Theatre is reviving a comedy from the 1940s, where marriage and the supernatural collide.

Originally written and directed by Noël Coward, Blithe Spirit is a story about the ups and downs of old and new relationships. However, this play has a twist that will bring out lots of laughs from the audience, because it infuses the frustrations from both old and new relationships and forces them to play side-by-side each other.

Lauren Woodnorth is a senior in the College of Liberal Arts. She plays Mrs. Bradmen, one of the friends of the main couple, Mr. and Mrs. Condomine.

“This play is an English comedy,” she explains. “It is about a couple who – Mr. and Mrs. Condomine—Mr. Condomine is an author and he’s writing a book about psychic mediums. In the process of writing this book he has a séance at his house and they have a psychic medium, Madame Arcati, come in and she accidentally brings back the ghost of Mr. Condomine’s ex wife. 

“Mr. Condomine is the only person who can see this ghost. So the whole play is just kind of the trials and tribulations of his current wife versus his ex wife,” Woodnorth says. “It’s just a lot of comedy and a lot of fun.”

Created in 1941, Blithe Spirit is not a popular play to perform by actors because of its age. However, Larry Sommers, the director and fundraiser for Purdue’s Acting Department, says that this play was chosen because the department saw that it was important to keep these classic plays in students’ lexicon.

Sommers has been working since November of last year on highlighting what he thinks is one of the most important elements of the play – Noël Coward’s style.

“There is a sense of style in the Noel Coward shows. It was a different era. He’s all about wit,” he says.

“The people in Noël Coward’s world always have the perfect thing to say. In Noël Coward it’s always right there and it always comes out immediately. There’s also a kind of glamour and certain panache to all of his plays that hasn’t been at the forefront of American theatre for a lot of years.

“It is a little bit elevated level over what modern realism is in the United States,” Sommers says. “Getting that sense of style was probably the biggest single thing we had to concentrate on in this show.”

Liz Kraine, a second year graduate acting student who plays Elvira, the ex-wife of Mr. Condomine, says the play is unique because it reflects the conservative time in which it was written, but also has the confrontational spirit of today’s world. She thinks the fight in the play between Elvira and the new Mrs. Condomine reflects this spirit.

“This is a button-up, proper time in history where everyone was completely covered up and moved very properly,” Kraine says. “To be able to do something fun like a physical fight like this with me is pretty awesome. Because I get to do the proper pretty posing and also some fun fight stuff, which is great.”

Kraine believes Blithe Spirit is close to perfect.

“I think Noël Coward was a genius. It’s beautifully written and its classic. It’s a classic play. You can’t touch his wit, his sense of humor, his sense of comedy and timing – it’s just impeccable. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Blithe Spirit will begin showing April 13 and will run through April 21. Information about tickets and show times is online HERE.