‘Blithe Spirit’ is an otherworldly classic

The next production on the Orcas Center mainstage blends the mystical with the marital.

Charles Condomine is working on his latest novel about the occult. As part of his research, he and his wife Ruth host a seance with an eccentric medium known as Madame Arcati and invite their friends to play along. The evening takes a supernatural turn when Madame Arcati conjures Charles’ deceased first wife, Elvira, who doesn’t have plans to leave.

“I love working with classic comedies and this comedy in particular, I saw it on Broadway with Angela Lansbury. It’s a dressy farce with a soupcon of melodrama tossed in for flavor,” said director Dorrie Braun, who is also playing Ruth.

“Blithe Spirit” runs March 9-18 at 7 p.m. There is a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, March 12. Tickets are $15-$59 and can be purchased at www.orcascenter.org.

Written by English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer Noel Coward, the play was first seen in the West End in 1941. Since then, it has run on Broadway multiple times and been adapted for television and film. It was last done at Orcas Center in 1996.

“I didn’t know that when I chose it!” Braun laughed. “Sukima, who plays Madame Arcati, was in it back then and she played Ruth. She is very excited about the play and getting to do it again. There are also people in the community excited about it because they remember seeing it years ago here.”

Hampton says it was “wonderful” being part of the show close to three decades ago.

“I had a pair of shoes that I called my ‘Ruth’ shoes for 20-plus years after that,” Hampton said. “It was my first experience on the Orcas Center stage and I was terrified. It was thrilling. When I saw that Dorrie was doing ‘Blithe Spirit,’ I felt, as Madame Arcati says, ‘A tremendous urge like a rushing wind!’ and I immediately contacted her. Madame Arcati is like an alter ego for me.”

Other cast members include Larry Hampel as Charles, Aaimee Johnson as Elvira, Catherine Petroff and Ed Lambert as Mrs. Bradman and Dr. Bradman (they are also a real-life couple), Alyssa Burnett as Edith and Daphne as Emily.

“The actors are older in the play than it was written but it brings an element of long-standing marital conversations that work really well,” Braun said.“I am a big proponent of the cast and audience having fun, and I think this does that.

Coward adapted the script — and played Charles — for a live television version in 1956 starring Lauren Bacall. That iteration of the play is being used for the Orcas Center production.

“Tom McDonough, who is doing light and sound, and his wife Rebecca watched the TV show with the script in front of them and crossed out and re-wrote all of the changes,” Braun explained. “And Anna Meyer, who is doing our costumes, then retyped it all. The audience will never know how much work has gone into the script we are using. Noel Coward himself trimmed this down for a TV presentation, and it’s very interesting to see what he did.”