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Haunting Comedy ‘Blithe Spirit’ Is One Of Noel Coward’s Best

Spirits from beyond are a staple in romantic comedies (“Heaven Can Wait” and “Ghost,” to name two successful examples) but nobody has ever done spirits with more spirit than Noel Coward.

His 1941 comedy, “Blithe Spirit,” was the blueprint for most subsequent romantic ghost stories, including the famous 1945 screen version of this play, starring Rex Harrison.

Interplayers opens this classic tale of love and wit tonight. It continues through May 13.

“Blithe Spirit” is widely considered one of Coward’s wittiest plays, and he wrote lots of witty plays.

It is undoubtedly one of his most popular. The London production ran for a whopping 1,997 performances (in the midst of the London blitz), and the New York version did almost as well.

The plot is a cleverly constructed setup for Coward’s sophisticated, upper class, ironic humor. Novelist Charles Condomine invites an eccentric medium to his country home for a seance and she summons his first wife back for a visit from the Great Beyond.

The humor stems from several circumstances. Condomine already has a new wife, which vastly annoys the Ghostly One. Also, she wants Condomine to join her in the afterlife, but he is perfectly happy where he is. And furthermore, nobody can see the Ghost except for Condomine, and nobody can figure out how to get rid of her.

It has the same classic Coward touch - cool, clever, detached - that audiences loved in last season’s “Hay Fever” at Interplayers.

Audiences might remember one of the faces in this production from “Hay Fever.” Tony Mason returns to Interplayers to play Charles.

Jennifer True will play Elvira, the Ghost. Other cast members include Rebecca Rothstein, Bruce Arnold, Carey Chilton Charyk, Annemarie Hehir, and Pat Sibley.

Interplayers performances are at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, and 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. There will be 2 p.m. matinees on Sunday and April 26 and 29.

For tickets and reservations, call 455-PLAY. The theater is at 174 S. Howard.

“Royal Gambit”

The Spokane Civic Theater’s Firth Chew Studio Theatre opens a play tonight that was a major intellectual sensation in Europe and New York in the late 1950s.

“Royal Gambit,” by German playwright Hermann Gressieker and translated by George White, is about King Henry VIII and the six women in his life. However, don’t expect anything like “Anne of a Thousand Days.”

In this case, King Henry is represented as the true, liberal Renaissance man. He stays the same in dress and attitude throughout the play. The women, however, dress in an increasingly modern manner as the play goes on.

This is intended to show the lasting effects of Henry’s thought. The goal is no less than an examination of the development of modern thought.

“Original, stimulating and mature,” said the New York Times in its original review. “A compact, wellwritten play that asks some cogent questions and provides disturbing answers.”

The New York Herald Tribune called it “an exceptionally interesting experiment in fresh matter and method.”

The Studio Theatre production is directed by one of the finest directors in Spokane, Marilyn Langbehn.

King Henry VIII will be played by William Marlowe. The women will be played by Fay Gano, Marianne McLaughlin, Amy Townsend, Malie Peterson, Erica Brooks and Valerie Harper-Murdoch.

It opens tonight and continues Saturday, and April 27-30, and May 4-6 and 11-13. All curtain times are 8 p.m. except a 2 p.m. matinee on April 30.

The theater is located at 1020 N. Howard. General admission tickets are $8. Call 325-2507 for tickets and reservations.

“Closer Than Ever”

Here’s a reprieve for anyone who missed the musical revue, “Closer Than Ever,” the first time around.

It is making an encore appearance at The ACT, 425 N. Evergreen Road, on Sunday at 4 p.m.

This musical revue, by Richard Maltby Jr. and David Shire, got some great word of mouth during its original run last month. It consists of songs about “grownups growing up.” The musical score reflects jazz and Broadway influences. The director is Melody Deatherage.

Tickets are $10, available by calling The ACT at 921-1706.

“Closer Than Ever” also plays The Cutter Theater in Metaline Falls on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for that show are $5, available at the door. Child care will be available for $2.50 per child.

“Bye Bye Birdie”

Everybody’s favorite Elvis spoof opens tonight at the Lake City Playhouse, 14th and Garden, Coeur d’Alene.

The hit musical, “Bye Bye Birdie,” gave us such memorable tunes as “Put On a Happy Face” and “We Love You Conrad.” It’s about a town which goes nuts over a ‘50s teen idol.

This production is directed by Matthew Flanders, with musical direction by Julie Powell. Cast members include Frank Jewett, Melissa Lamb-Topp, Nancy Benun, Keith Knight, Patricia McArdle and Daniel Gilboy.

The show opens tonight and continues Saturday and Sunday, April 28-30 and May 5-7. Showtimes are 8 p.m., except for 2 p.m. Sunday matinees.

Tickets are $10, $8 for seniors, $6 for children, available by calling (208) 667-1323.

“Aladdin and the Magic Lamp”

American Family Theater, a national touring theater troupe, brings the musical, “Aladdin and the Magic Lamp,” to the stage of North Idaho College’s Boswell Auditorium on Sunday at 2 p.m.

The story follows the classic “Arabian Nights” tale, told with songs, special effects and high energy.

“Their engaging productions wonderfully command the attention of young audiences and the spirit is contagious,” said the New York Times.

The show is sponsored by the Coeur d’Alene Performing Arts Alliance.

General admission tickets are $7 and are available at Burt’s Music and Sound and at the Gallery by the Lake in the Coeur d’Alene Resort Plaza. Call (208) 667-0547 for more information.