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Hail Hale: `Blithe Spirit' is a winner

The bone-chilling winds outside could not compare to the haunting that was going on inside the Hale Center Theater on Saturday night with the production of Noel Coward's comedy, "Blithe Spirit."

Besides the excellent presentation by the cast, the special effects and costuming were the finishing touches on a wonderful show. It was amazing to see so many special effects in an intimate theater-in-the-round. Tables levitating, books flinging off shelves, a typewriter working without a typist, all of these illusions made this production a truly "spirited" experience.The story centers on Charles (played by Carl Belliston), who has a major problem. His first wife, Elvira (Anne Swenson), who has "passed on" has been called back by someone in the house. Ruth, the current wife (Kiersten Isom), is not very happy about it. And the only one that may be able to sort things out is the eccentric medium, Madame Arcati (Maureen Eastwood).

The ghostly excitement around the house is intensified by the clumsy, hyperactive maid Edith (Amy Norris), who tends to break just about everything she lays her hands on. For those whose hearts fail at the sound of lovely china breaking, this may not be a production for you.

Charles' friends and physician, Dr. and Mrs. Bradman (Peter Brown and Katharine Matis), complete the cast in their supporting roles as after-life skeptics.

Charles, who is the only one who can see his angelic first wife, is quite happy to have her around, and she doesn't care to leave either. In fact, she is devising ways to get Charles into the netherworld. Ruth begins to wonder if Charles is an "astro bigamist." When Ruth drives off in a car rigged for Charles' demise, the entertainment gets better: Now there are two ghosts to exorcise.

Eastwood's interpretation of Madame Arcati is splendid. And the costumers should be praised for their choice of hats and attire Eastwood wears. They added tremendously to the character. The aura of ghostly white dresses and makeup on the "deceased" was effective as well.

Again, the special effects crew should receive commendation for the technical support to the story, which made it all the better. "Blithe Spirit" is outrageous, and the audience, which packed the house, laughed frequently.

It should be noted "Blithe Spirit" is double-cast (except for Eastwood, who plays Madame Arcati nightly. The cast reviewed plays Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The alternate cast includes Patricia Snowdon (Edith), Ashley Neves (Ruth), Mark Pulham (Charles), Eldon Randall (Dr. Bradman), Nancy Douglas (Mrs. Bradman) and Nannette Watts (Elvira).