Thank goodness for Angela Lansbury. She is really the one reason to see the revival of the Noel Coward comedy, Blithe Spirit, now on Broadway. As medium Madame Acarti, Lansbury gives a kooky, comedic, yet nuanced performance that enlivens the production whenever she sets foot on stage. It’s too bad she spent all those years in Hollywood with Murder, She Wrote. Now, I was a big fan of that television mystery series, but when I think of the twelve years she was out there instead of gracing the Broadway stage, I am very saddened.
But, I regress. Unfortunately, Blithe Spirit itself doesn’t have much else to offer. Granted, Rupert Everett and Jayne Atkinson, playing the married couple Charles and Ruth, are experienced actors, Everett more in films. They play their roles well, but the verbal repartee between the two wears thin quickly. Maybe if I had as many drinks as what the characters consumed during the show I would feel otherwise.
The major disappointment is Christine Ebersole as Elvira, the ghostly first wife of Charles, inadvertently summoned back from the ethereal world during a séance conducted by the eccentric Madame Acarti. Ebersole flits from one end of the stage to another, flapping her silky gown along the way. She creates a bit of mischief here and there for Charles, who is the only one that can see and hear her, but her hijinks become quite boring rather quickly. Sometimes, I sensed Ebersole didn’t know what to do with herself. One wonders what director Michael Blakemore, who has done outstanding work on Broadway throughout the years, was trying to accomplish.
One other bright spot in the production was Susan Louise O’Connor as the daft servant Edith. In between Coward’s non-stop, sophisticated chatter and witticisms O’Connor entertains us with silliness and a dash of slapstick.
Blithe Spirit, another golden opportunity to take in what could be another Tony winning performance by Angela Lansbury.