Theater Review / Blithe Spirit

By Diane Johnson

Full of fun and mayhem Blithe Spirit is a delightful comedy, offering audiences a glimpse into the world of ectoplasm and the afterlife.

Written by Noel Coward, Blithe Spirit was his most popular play with almost 2000 performances on both sides of the pond. An English playwright known for his wit, Coward’s works are classics. Peter King directs the talented seven-person cast of the Fringe Theater with a deft hand. The timing of their interactions is spot on, adding to the otherworldly dynamic of this production. St Paul’s Parish Hall is transformed into a 1940’s proper English living room. Bob Rowand’s design of the lighting worked beautifully and provided for thought-provoking scenes. Deborah Snelgrove and Sandy Nichols creativity in costume and makeup set the stage for the out of body experiences to follow. Thanks to the skills of stage manager Cynthia Kemeny, who adapts well to many venues, the show went off without a hitch.

The Fringe Theater’s slogan of “expect the unexpected” fits perfectly for this production of Blithe Spirit. The chaos begins when a novelist, Charles Condomine, whose plans to expose a medium as a phony, backfires during a séance. Madame Arcati, the medium in question, accidentally conjures up his deceased first wife Elvira. When Charles’ second wife Ruth finally figures out what’s happening, a hilarious chain of events unfolds.

Justin Ahearn plays Charles Condomine and Caroline Taylor is his wife Ruth. Justin brings a tremendous amount of youthful energy to the stage. His emotions are laid bare as he struggles to deal with a reality that boggles the mind and threatens to drive him to the brink of insanity. Caroline is perfection as the bitchy domineering wife with little tolerance for anybody she can’t control. The two actors are so in-synch with each other; they will have you believing they are truly husband and wife.

Vanessa McCaffrey is Madame Arcati and her performance is brilliant as the eccentric medium. Vanessa’s acting spans the spectrum of emotions from playful and silly to an angry no nonsense woman who will not stand to be berated or treated unfairly. Bridget Chebo is Elvira Condomine; Charles’s first wife now deceased. This is Bridget’s first time performing in Key West, and I must say she has a commanding stage presence. Tony Konrath is a pro and no stranger to Key West audiences. His role as Dr. Bradman is a serious one, which he wears quite well. Tammy Shanley has fun in her role as the Doctor’s wife. She plays a sweet but clueless woman who is always apologizing for her thoughtless comments. Kitty Clements is an absolute delight as Edith, the Condomine’s maid. Her performance throughout the entire show was thoroughly entertaining, riveting and yes, at times unexpected.

The Fringe Theater’s Blithe Spirit is here for two short weeks. Don’t miss this hilarious show! It is now playing from January 15th to 31st at St. Paul’s Parish Hall in Key West. For tickets call 305-707-4053 or go online at:

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