I’ve seen performances of Noel Coward’s iconic comedy a few times, but Bembridge Little Theater Club’s version is definitely the best I’ve seen.
Charles Condomine’s decision to hold a seance as the search goes horribly wrong when the spirit of his first wife Elvira is summoned, much to the horror of his second wife Ruth…..
The whole thing is a delight on its own – Andrew Wilson-Jenner and his team are to be commended for presenting a living room I wish I had in my home: beautifully appointed and decorated (despite Elvira’s criticisms of the taste of her successor!) with perfect attention to detail – and some spectacular effects that I won’t describe, because that would spoil the surprise for you!
The opening scene between the haughty but slightly apprehensive Ruth Condomine, played with poise and grace – and an astonishing ability to keep a straight face – by Jane Robert, and the dimwitted, eager to please housekeeper Edith, sets the stage. for the hilarity to come. Edith is a small part, but in the experienced hands of Libby Pike, she risks stealing every scene she finds herself in: Libby’s perfect comedic timing and hilarious efforts to “be calm, Edith” are a joy.
Mark Entwhistle excels as Charles Condomine, the sensible gentleman around whom chaos builds: at first completely in control of his home, family and social circle, as events unfold he becomes confused, frustrated and desperate; his twin conversations with his two wives, one of whom cannot see or hear the other, are perfectly synchronized for maximum pleasure.
Hanna Nixon as Elvira is another scene stealer: her acid comments, deft stage moves and hilarious facial expressions add to the comedy, as does her ability to seductively sneak up on Charles or stare other characters with disdain – and the total of other actors. the control in the (literal) face of this is to be admired. I’ve never seen Elvira portrayed this way – and it’s definitely a compliment.
Dr. and Mrs. Bradman, played with aplomb by John Hammond and Ruth Anderson, may be “small roles,” but on a show like this, every character matters and they perfectly represent the distinguished friends of the Condomines: him, a skeptical and balanced doctor; she’s a talkative lady, rather excitable, eager to see if the session will yield anything.
Much of the play’s comedy comes from the reaction of the “straight” characters to the comedy roles, and in a production full of stage-stealing comedic performances, Martie Cain is to be commended for managing to walk away with the bouquet of scene stealing as Madame Arcati. Yes, it’s a peach of a role, but Martie makes the most of it as soon as she falters on stage. Her dancing with a footstool, her trance, her rambling anecdotes, her sheer delight in actually encountering an actual apparition—even as she consistently directs her remarks at the wrong part of the room—or even the wrong part of the body—are an absolute hoot.
The lighting, sound and backstage crews deserve a mention in a play that requires so many quick scene changes and special effects. In the meantime, another viewer pointed out the wonderful effects to me. Having had a foretaste of a general rehearsal, I was able to advise him: “Do you think that Act 1 had a great effect? Wait until you see Act 2!”
The thunderous applause as the actors bowed confirmed my own opinion: this is another triumph for the Bembridge Little Theater Club; another incredibly professional show and one of the most entertaining evenings I’ve had in quite a while.
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