Noel Coward’s ghostly yet funny tale “Blithe Spirit,” aided by excellent performances and great chemistry between Mary Helen Mierkey, Miranda Simonich, Matt Van De Wal and Lyric Piccolotti opened last weekend at the Golden Chain Theatre.
The play, directed by Sarah Persson, creatively combines drama, mystery and humor along with some nice special effects never before seen on the Golden Chain Theatre stage.
The story takes place in the home of Charles Condomine (Van De Wal) and his second straight-laced wife Ruth (Simonich). In order to conduct research for his latest book, Charles invites bike-riding medium Madame Arcati (Mierkey), to perform a seance at his home and the quirky and eccentric psychic, after going into a trance, mistakenly summons the ghost of his deceased first wife Elvira (Piccolotti) - a ghost that only Charles can see.
To witness this event, Charles and Ruth invite the skeptical Dr. Bradman (Leonard Brown) and his wife, Violet (Jennifer Olsen). Charles and the good doctor can barely restrain themselves from laughter.
When Charles discovers he is the only one who can see and hear Elvira, he attempts to pass off his odd behavior as a joke.
What follows is a competition between the two women - one dead - one alive - thanks to Madame Arcati. The ghostly situation is explained simply and clearly when Ruth tells Charles “this is a duel to the death between Elvira and me.”
Mierkey feels honored that she gets to speak the same lines that Angela Lansbury spoke when the play was on Broadway.
“What a privilege to be a part of a long history of noted actresses who have given life to this role, including Lansbury,” Mierkey said.
Mierkey’s performance would have surely received a standing ovation from Lansbury if she was in the Golden Chain audience.
The 1945 movie version of “Blithe Spirit” stared Kay Hammond, Margaret Rutherford, Rex Harrison and Constance Cummings.
Van De Wal plays the dry but rather witty Charles with ease, even when he thinks he is possibly going crazy due to Elvira’s appearance.
Simonich does a great job playing Ruth - a very confident, trustworthy, matter-of-fact wife.
Piccolotti plays her character (Elvira) with a mixture of childish naivety and sultry cunning - more flippant and coy and she wants what she wants, no matter what it takes. She’s very much the opposite of Ruth.
Live theater buff Frank Gibson drove from Clovis to see the play and enjoyed the production.
“Mary Helen Mierkey did a bang-up job as the medium - entirely believable,” Gibson said. “Amber Persson as Edith the maid was delightful, and Lyric Piccolotti did a good job as Elvira the ghost. Congratulations to the director, Sarah Persson, who kept the pace up and the play moved along really well. Kudos also to George and Mel Rich for outstanding special effects. Everyone should treat themselves by seeing this play.”
Details: “Blithe Spirit”: 7 p.m., Sept. 30, Oct. 1, 7, 8 - 2 p.m., Oct. 2, 9. Tickets $8 - $15. Group rates available. www.goldenchaintheatre.org , (559) 683-7112 Tuesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m..