Blithe Spirit

Noel Coward

March 2012

 

 

Imagine London during World War II. Germany’s Blitzkrieg assaults the city with an arsenal of bombs. Buildings collapse. Lives are lost. People flee to the English countryside.

Now imagine a 40 year old playwright living in England during this time. He spends five days writing a play (in between his covert operations as a member of Britain’s Secret Service). What might that play be about? War? Survival? Politics? Pride? Despair?

No. The playwright is Noel Coward. And the play he created during England’s battle-scarred year of 1941 is Blithe Spirit, a delightfully satirical comedy about ghosts.

The Basic Plot

 

Charles Condomine is a successful novelist. Ruth is his charming, strong-willed wife. In order to conduct research for Charles’ latest book, they invite a medium to their home to perform a seance, expecting that the eccentric psychic, Madame Arcati, will be a humorous shyster. Well, she is humorous – in fact, her boisterous character practically steals the show! However, her ability to connect with the dead is genuine.

After prancing about the room reciting nursery rhymes, Madame Arcati summons a ghost from Charles’ past: Elvira – his first wife. Charles can see her, but no one else can. Elvira is flirtatious and catty. She enjoys insulting Charles’ second wife.

At first Ruth thinks her husband has gone insane. Then, after watching a vase float across the room (thanks to Elvira), Ruth accepts the strange truth. What follows is a darkly funny competition between two women, one dead, one living. They battle for the possession of their husband. But as the haunting and the hollering continue, Charles begins to wonder if he wants to be with either woman at all.