I’m so grateful to have seen the great Angela Lansbury put on the master acting class that this was! I just can’t say enough good things about her performance in Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit at the Ahmanson Theatre.
The other actors she shared the stage with all gave pro performances, but let’s face it–we were all there to see Ms. Lansbury. I have a feeling the rest of the cast could have talked like the teacher in Peanuts, and the opening night audience would have still been happy.
What a privilege it was to see Ms. Lansbury revive the role of Madame Arcati, the medium, for which she won a much-deserved Tony Award in 2009.
I’m sure she’s sick of everyone mentioning her age all the time, but it’s so amazing that a woman of eighty-nine can perform like she does! The funny thing is that she was always mature for her age back in the day, (when she starred in The Manchurian Candidate in 1962, as Laurence Harvey’s mother, he was thirty-four and she was only three years older!,) while now she’s the youngest-seeming octogenarian. I could not believe the amazing physical comedy she was pulling off! I wish those moves were recorded somewhere, so I could watch them over and over again.
So now, a bit on the show itself. A Noel Coward play is always worth seeing, especially, if like I, you’ve never seen this particular one before. In this case of Blithe Spirit, it’s all well-acted and well-directed. The set, (except for the major problem I’m going to tell you about in a sec,) is attractive enough, and the costumes are spot-on, (especially the Tinkerbell slippers on the ghost!) And I love that the curtain said “Interval” during intermission! Cute touch.
Even though Noel Coward wrote this work in 1941, (in only six days, I might add, jealously,) his plays have always been timeless. Blithe Spirit would have been the exact same story had a production updated it to modern times, but England in the forties is such a lovely setting.
I did hear some fellow audience members mention that it was a tad long, and I see their point, but it actually went fast enough for me, mainly because of Angela Lansbury. I was like a kid seeing cartoon characters on-stage every time she appeared!
I do have one major quarrel with this production, and it’s with the oddly-designed set. I can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone would design a set that cuts off part of the view from half the audience, when there was absolute no need to do so! Even though most of the action takes place on stage left, and secondarily in the middle of the stage, the entire stage right, where the fireplace is (that is even referenced right at the top,) is cut-off to those on that side of the audience! And we weren’t sitting on the extreme end of a row. Actually, our seats were almost to the center of the row. They were wonderful seats. It’s the set itself that was lacking. (It’s hard to describe without a visual, but the set on that side goes to the back in a ninety-degree angle, rather than bowing-out, as most sets do. And then there’s a curtain to take up the rest of the space. It’s an inexplicable design.)
But, everything else aside, positive or slightly negative, just go see Angela Lansbury’s magnificence. Period.
[Note #1: Even with my 147IQ, I really never knew the definition of the word “blithe.” I guess a sort-of British word such as this didn’t come up too often in a Brooklyn household, even with parents who were English and Speech teachers! And I didn’t want to look it up before seeing the show, in case it gave me a clue as to what the action would be. All I knew about the classic comedy going in was that a ghost is involved. So, I knew it was a spirit who was “blithe,” whatever that is. Now that I’ve seen the show, I finally looked-up the definition; here it is: “Showing a casual and cheerful indifference considered to be callous or improper.” So, it’s the perfect title for this play!]
[Note #2: On a personal note, because Mr. X had appeared in Murder She Wrote, I had the good fortune, and distinct pleasure, to meet Angela Lansbury at a party celebrating her show. She had very many people to greet, but was as nice to me as if I was the only guest. What a role model for a young actress.]
[Note #3: I just want to thank Center Theatre group for bringing us Angelenos the opportunity to see not only Angela Lansbury perform, but also Cicely Tyson right before her. These experiences are not be taken lightly! And, it only gets better with the next production, which is my all-time fave fun person, Dame Edna. OMG! And then Cinderella, followed by Matilda. I think this is the best line-up the Ahmanson Theatre has ever had!!!]
Blithe Spirit running through January 18, 2015
Ahmanson Theatre 135 N. Grand Ave. 213-972-4400 www.centertheatregroup.org