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Goats, gripes, and grasping for greatness
Theater: Blithe Spirit 
23rd-Mar-2015 11:01 am
Summer
Kaelikat snagged tickets back in December for Blithe Spirit at the National Theater. Angela Lansbury played Madame Arcati (WTOP commentary) to a sold-out, matinee audience. I had never seen Blithe Spirit before, and seeing it with top-level players was amazing. It was seriously funny. This particular version was a very well-presented, well-timed comedy. The set was a bit distracting, but the acting was superb.

The folks diagonally behind us did a quick and rather positive ESPN pre-game show, running down the qualifications and resumes of the entire cast. Apparently we had quite the A-team at this show. I wouldn't have recognized anyone else but Lansbury, however, I did enjoy nearly every moment.

Edith - Susan Louise O'Connor
Ruth - Charlotte Parry
Charles - Charles Edwards (currently also playing Michael Gregson in "Downton Abby")
Dr. Bradman - Simon Jones
Mrs. Bradman - Sandra Shipley
Madame Arcati - Angela Lansbury
Elvira - Melissa Woodbridge

Edith (O'Connor) positively stole the show. Her physical comedy and the physical movement timing between her and Ruth (Parry) was superb. Elvira (Woodbridge) played up her cute little bob wig and her long sleeves with every inch of attitude. Mrs. Bradman (Shipley) seemed to be a bit erratic in her projected energy, but I think that her character just didn't get enough "screen time" to be allowed a nuanced presentation.

Lansbury was, of course, the person that most everyone was there to see. She certainly was energetic and wacky as Madame Arcati, as well as precise in her presentation of every mood and snip at the other characters. I didn't find her to be out of balance with any of the rest of the cast - it was a good blend of very strong people.

The set was vaguely distracting to me because of so many little things to look at which were not entirely applicable to the action of the story. The bookshelf was full of colorful spines (and until the books fell off of the shelves at the end, they had nothing to do with the action). The piano had multiple picture frames standing on it (referenced once and knocked over once), and there were two very colorful flower arrangements. It was all very applicable to the setting, but still, distracting.

I'm of the opinion that I should see new-to-me presentations either with the A-team or with an amateur group. That way I'll either have the socks blown off of me or I'll know the story and have faith that it will be better next time. For another example, my first time seeing "Jesus Christ, Superstar" was during Ted Neely's farewell tour. I saw the Broadway tours for Cats, Phantom, Wicked.
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