WEATHER »
GHOST STORIES: Susan Louise O’Connor (standing), Sandra Shipley, Charles Edwards, Angela Lansbury, Charlotte Parry and Simon Jones in the North American tour of Noël Coward’s “Blithe Spirit” at the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre hrough January 18, 2015.

Joan Marcus

GHOST STORIES: Susan Louise O’Connor (standing), Sandra Shipley, Charles Edwards, Angela Lansbury, Charlotte Parry and Simon Jones in the North American tour of Noël Coward’s “Blithe Spirit” at the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre hrough January 18, 2015.


Worth the Drive: Blithe Spirit at the Ahmanson Theater

Angela Lansbury Lifts Delightful but Disturbing Los Angeles Production


It’s really quite remarkable the way Noel Coward’s comedies seem impervious to time. In the right hands, their status as satisfying entertainment remains undiminished, even as directors and audiences increasingly appreciate their serious subtexts. Seventy years on, it’s clear that Coward had some penetrating insights into human nature, and these keep his seemingly featherweight farces from floating away. Underneath all that wit and style, he’s reminding us of some uncomfortable truths.

Michael Blakemore’s pitch-perfect revival of 1941’s Blithe Spirit, which continues through January 18 at the Ahmanson Theater in downtown Los Angeles, is a perfect example. On a surface level, it’s a laugh-out-loud comedy based on a simple but brilliant conceit. As research for his next book, successful author Charles Condomine (Charles Edwards from Downton Abbey) invites Madame Arcati (Angela Lansbury), a medium, to his home for a séance. Much to everyone’s surprise, she conjures up the ghost of his late first wife — a development that does not please his current, second wife in the least. As he dramatizes the trio’s hilariously odd and increasingly angry interactions, Coward slyly makes the case that human happiness is nearly impossible, since we long for passion but can’t bear the baggage that accompanies it. No wonder his characters drink so heavily.

Lansbury, making her first Southern California stage appearance in four decades, is of course the draw here, and she does not disappoint. She finds wonderful specificity in a character that could be played as a generic eccentric; the little dance she does in preparation for going into a trance is worth the price of a ticket alone. (She’s 89, by the way.) But the entire cast is superb. This wonderful production isn’t so much a star turn as a welcome chance to be reminded of Coward’s ability to amuse — which, if you care to notice, went hand in hand with his ability to unsettle.

4∙1∙1:

Blithe Spirit is up at the Ahmanson Theater (135 North Grand Avenue, Los Angeles) through Sunday, January 18. For ticket and info, call (213) 972-4400 or visit centertheatergroup.org.

To submit a comment on this article, email letters@independent.com or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email tips@independent.com.



Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

Dos Pueblos High School Stirs Political Pot

Senior-class picture features MAGA and LIBERALS!

Community Forum Provides Updates on Immigration Enforcement

About 9 percent of people in Santa Barbara County are undocumented.

Santa Barbara Launches Interactive Street Sweep Map

Users can identify dates, times, and routes for street sweeping by address and colored areas.

Santa Barbara Zoo Bids Farewell to Beloved Elephant

Sujatha passes away at 47 years old.

Disaster Relief Rundown for Santa Barbara 

A tally of nonprofit giving since the Thomas Fire and 1/9 Debris Flow.