Blithe Spirit

By Noel Coward

Directed by Diane Robinson

Writer and society man Charles Condoman has a paranormal predicament. Following a goofy psychic's séance (it's research, of course!), he's visited by the ghost of his dead wife Elvira, who is determined to wreak havoc on the household. This disruption comes much to the dismay of Charles' current wife Ruth &endash; she can't see the specter and believes her husband's gone mad. Catfights and catastrophes ensue in this clash between the living and the not-so-living. It's a hilarious farce by the master of high-class British comedy. Directed by Diane Robinson, who was last seen at the Rep on stage as Sarah Daniels in Spinning Into Butter.

Produced by The Rep

Presented at the Madison Civic Center in the Isthmus Playhouse.

Performances: October 25 &endash; November 17, 2002

Tickets are $28 for Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday performances, and $34 for Friday and Saturday performances.

There will be a special Preview Performance on Thursday, October 24 at 2:30 p.m. Sponsored by Isthmus, the performance includes a post-show party in the lobby. Tickets are $14.

Audience Talkbacks are scheduled for October 27 and November 6 following the performances. Also new this season: An Artists' Presentation will begin 45 minutes prior to the November 14 performance. The free event is an opportunity for the audience to talk to members of the show's artistic staff.

Madison Repertory Theatre is offering new ticket programs this season. Students who present a valid Student ID may take 50% off the cost of a full-priced ticket (regular performances only). Madison Rep will also offer Tix for $10, a low-cost alternative for patrons who cannot afford the cost of a full-priced ticket. A limited number of Tix for $10 will be available for each performance.

Tickets for all performances are on sale at the Madison Civic Center Ticket Office, 211 State Street, or by calling (608) 258-4141. For information on Group Rates, call (608) 256-0029 x 13.


Blithe spirits and high farce meet as Madison Repertory Theatre presents Blithe Spirit, written by the master of theatrical sophistication and wit, Noel Coward.

An English gentleman and occasional novelist Charles Condomine, short of material for his latest novel, invites the spirit medium Madame Arcati to perform a seance. Unbeknownst to the medium and the other guests, including Charles' current wife Ruth, the seance proves a success, contact with the spirit world, and specifically the spirit of his deceased first wife Elvira. As Charles accepts the presence of Elivira's ghost, an unexpected and highly witty struggle for his affection ensues between his earthly wife Ruth and his spirit wife. Blithe Spirit emerged from the Coward's imagination in six days while he visited friends in the English countryside, and quickly became one of his most popular plays.

Considered one of the most influential playwrights of the 20th century, whose work has had an impact on writers as diverse as Harold Pinter, Joe Orton, and Edward Albee, Noel Coward was thought of mainly as an entertainer -- albeit a remarkably assured one--during his lifetime. He was an actor, playwright, director, composer and singer.

In 1925, four Coward productions were running simultaneously in London: Hay Fever, Fallen Angels, Easy Virtue, and On with the Dance. Coward ended the decade with his most popular musical play, Bitter Sweet (1929); and began the next with his most popular comedy of manners, Private Lives (1930), in which he starred with Gertrude Lawrence and Laurence Olivier. For the next decade he enjoyed enormous popularity, with such hits as Cavalcade (1931), Design for Living (1933), Tonight at 8:30 (1935-6), and Blithe Spirit (1941), which ran for almost 2000 performances. He produced three volumes of autobiography: Present Indicative (1937), Future Indefinite (1954) and Past Conditional (published posthumously). Coward was knighted in 1970, and died at his home in Jamaica in 1973.

Diane Robinson, who appeared as Sarah in last season's Spinning Into Butter, now joins Madison Rep as director. Last year, Robinson directed the premiere of Murray Mednick's play Joe and Betty in Los Angeles, which received a 2001 American Theatre Critics citation. Robinson received a nomination for best director from LA Weekly for her 1997 premiere production of Mednick's play Dictator, and has also directed new work by Seattle, Chicago, and Los Angeles playwrights. Her extensive acting resume includes work at the Mark Taper Forum, South Coast Repertory Theatre, Old Globe Theater, Los Angeles Women's Shakespeare Company, Cornerstone Theater Company, Fabulous Monsters, Berkeley Shakespeare Festival and Marin Theatre Company in California.

Of Coward's play, Robinson said, "Blithe Spirit delights us with its quintessential Englishness -- deeply eccentric, savagely funny. Their ability to sculpt rapier-clean wit out of thin air. The play turns out to be the ultimate testament to the English spirit that survived the Blitz and ultimately defeated Germany."

The Cast

Robinson has assembled a seasoned cast for this stylish classic. John Wojda arrives from New York to play the hapless Charles Condomine. Woyda has performed leading classical and contemporary roles in repertory theaters from Boston to Berkeley and from Winnipeg to Houston, including four seasons in the resident acting company of Canada's Stratford Festival. He has appeared on Broadway in Present Laughter, The Merchant of Venice, Two Shakespearean Actors and Macbeth, and in such prestigious Off-Broadway venues as The Public Theatre, Theatre For A New Audience, The New Group, Primary Stages, The WPA Theater, The Women's Project, and Classic Stage Company. Denise Poirer plays Charles' second and current wife Ruth. Her theater credits include work with the Mark Taper Forum New Work Festival, the Laguna Playhouse, Padua Hills Plawrights' Festival, and Theatre of NOTE among others. Poirer's television credits include appearances on Seinfeld, Murphy Brown, Fraiser and 3rd Rock from the Sun. Jennifer Rohn, also from New York, will play the mischievous ghost Elvira. Rohn appeared in the original Broadway cast of The Kentucky Cycle, and in such Off-Broadway venues as The Public Theatre, New Victory Theater, The Acting Company and The Mint Theatre, among others. Her extensive regional theatre experience includes plays at The Guthrie, Philadelphia Theater Company, Portland Stage Company, Cleveland Playhouse, and American Repertory Theater. Rohn appeared on television in Law and Order and PBS/American Playhouse's O Pioneers!

Cindy Gold, a Chicago-based actress, will play the eccentric psychic, Madame Arcati. Gold's recent credits include The Glamour House at Chicago's Victory Gardens, Man and Superman and Desire Under the Elms, co-produced by The Court Theatre and Freedom Repertory in Philadelphia. She is an assistant professor of theatre and acting at Northwestern University. Gerard Dedera, who played Mr. Meyers in Madison Rep's Spinning Into Butter, returns to play Dr. Bradman. Laura Whyte, a Chicago-based actress, will play Mrs. Bradman. Making her professional debut as Edith the maid is Kristin Kehl. Kehl is pursuing a BFA in acting from UW-Milwaukee.

The design team for Blithe Spirit includes Craig Seibels, scenic design, Rand Ryan, lighting design, Brian Hemesath (The All Night Strut!), costumes, Robert Oriol, sound, and Charles J. Trieloff, props. The stage manager for the production is Elisa Castillo.