Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

An Outstanding Production of Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit
National Tour

Also see Jeanie's review of Eurydice, Patrick's review of X's and O's (A Football Love Story) and Richard's review of The Cable Car Nymphomaniac

Sandra Shipley, Charles Edwards, Susan Louise O'Connor, Angela Lansbury, Charlotte Parry, and Simon Jones
The magnificent 88-year-old Angela Lansbury strides across the stage as Madame Arcati, in an outfit that looks like she collected it by rolling around the aisles of a thrift shop, speaking to dead people nonsensically. She vibrates across the stage in a somewhat Egyptian dance, faints into a trance, and then livelily talks to ghosts she can't see. What a performance this legendary actress gives to the audience. It's a tour de force of comic acting.

Noël Coward wrote Blithe Spirit in five days during the second World War. I have seen three prior productions of this sparkling comedy, two in the United Kingdom and the ACT production several years ago. I rate this production head and shoulders above the others, due to the superb cast of British players and the remarkable staging by Michael Blakemore.

I am not sure I want to give the details of this ingenious plot, since it would be a shame to spoil the farcical twists and turns. Let's just say it's about an author, his current and his late wife, an eccentric medium, and the ensuing merriment.

Now, let's talk about this superb cast of British players, starting with Charles Edwards as Charles Condomine (you might remember him from playing Lady Edith's publisher lover on "Downton Abbey"). He is perfectly cast as the husband of the wives. Charles is vain with a touch of arrogance, but a man for whom sympathy grows as he is besieged by wives living and dead.

Jemima Rooper is sublime as Elvira, the ghost of the dead wife. She shimmers into the room in a flowing all-white outfit exuding a mischievous, slinky sexiness. Her body language is outstanding. Charlotte Parry gives an excellent portrayal of the living wife Ruth. She crisply endows the character with just the right amount of fury. Her confrontations with Charles are lively.

Simon Jones and Sandra Shipley are excellent in the smaller roles of the Bradmans; and Susan Louise O'Connor is a hoot as nervous Nellie maid. As for Angela Lansbury, I've said it already, but let's say she knocked my socks off with this performance.

Blithe Spirit is a treat, and Blakemore's production, smartly designed by Simon Higlett with eerie billowing curtains, superbly captures the invigorating heartlessness of the comedy.

Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit runs through February 1st, 2015, at the Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor Street, San Francisco. For tickets call 888-746-1799 or visit For more information on the tour, visit Coming up next is the musical Newsies running from February 17 through March 15 at the Orpheum Theatre, Market Street, San Francisco.

Photo: Joan Marcus

Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema

Privacy Policy