Blithe Spirit is “a playful night” of theatre on stage in Toronto
The Gerrard Art Space is alive with the ghosts of Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit. The show is presented by the newly formed Mortar & Pestle Productions, and was chosen by director Melissa Beveridge “to introduce the company on a playful note.” I enjoyed the opening night performance of this quirky comedy.
This is also the first time the Gerrard Art Space has been used for a theatre presentation. The venue is a small, storefront space that I almost walked by before retracing my steps and walking into the bright room to be greeted by an intimate and eclectic set up.
Blithe Spirit tells the story of Charles and Ruth Condomine and how a mishap at a séance in their home leads to the conjuring of Charles’ long-dead and mischievous wife Elvira, a character only Charles can see. When I read the description, I knew I had to review this play. On a side note, I know it’s terrible that as a theatre reviewer I am just hearing about this Coward classic, but such is life.
I felt the highlight performance of the night came from JeN Hashimoto as the aforementioned Elvira. She really owned the devious, ghostly character in every way. With just a smirk or quick glance I felt like she expressed exactly what this character was all about and it was these subtle moments that perfectly set up the more action-filled scenes.
There is one short scene that I particularly enjoyed between Hashimoto’s Elvira and the Condomine’s housemaid Edith, played by Glenda Margaret Bell with great comedic timing. With no dialogue, it was simply two actors playing with the ghostly premise, and it elicited many laughs.
Devin Upham (Charles) and Riley Anne Nelson (Ruth) have a chemistry that I felt was slow to build at first, but as the show gets into its meat, they played well off each other. There were a few occasions where the actors ran a bit too quick with their dialogue, but with opening night there are bound to be a couple hiccups. In particular, Upham’s improv skills gave us more than a couple laughs with a phone that didn’t want to stop ringing.
These things are the reason I love reviewing opening nights, as I feel they add to the veracity of the live theatre experience. They also remind me that a theatre show is a living entity, and every single performance is different in special ways from every other performance of the same show.
Courtney Lander as the “psychic” Madame Arcati, Caedmon Ricker-Wilson as Dr. George Bradman, and Nina Kaye as his wife Violet Bradman round out the cast and add to the comedic proceedings each in their own way. Specifically, Lander plays Arcati with the amount of eccentricity one would expect for someone claiming to own the power Arcati does.
There is a quaint quality to this show that I enjoyed that came from the proper use of the small space. Kudos to set designer Alan Watson for this. Applause to Beveridge as well for having the vision as to how her actors should inhabit the space so it is used most effectively.
- Blithe Spirit is playing until March 5, 2016 at Gerrard Art Space (1475 Gerrard St. E.)
- Shows runs Thursday to Saturday at 8pm, note that the March 5th performance is only a 2pm showing.
- Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the door. Doors open one hour prior to the performance time. Reservations can also be made at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Note that I found the venue at tad chilly so bring a sweater.
Photo of Riley Anne Nelson & Devin Upham provided by the company.