Review: Hedgerow ensemble captures the ghostly elegance and fun of ‘Blithe Spirit’

Penelope Reed and Stacy Skinner in “Blithe Spirit” at Hedgerow Theatre. Photo by Ashley LaBonde

By Margie Royal

Noel Coward’s comedies look in to a monied, leisurely world of style and elegance. One of Coward’s best loved comedy of manners is undoubtedly “Blithe Spirit,” now playing through Oct. 29 at Hedgerow Theatre. The engaging ensemble takes this entertaining story with its fun supernatural overtones and serves up Coward’s play like a delicious seasonal pumpkin latte for the audience to savor.  Carly Bodnar directs and gets from her cast the right combination of seriousness and kookiness. The best comedies are played when the actors fully commit to the world the playwright creates. You get that in this production, and it’s a pleasure to see the actors add depth and color to their characters with each entrance they make as the story unfolds. They also handle Coward’s formal language beautifully, particularly Jared Reed. As Charles Condomine, Mr. Reed uses Coward’s words to bring to life a smart, witty and urbane man who is confounded by the increasingly absurd situation he finds himself facing.
The plot concerns novelist Charles Condomine, who decides to entertain his guests by inviting eccentric medium Madame Arcati (Penelope Reed), to his house for a seance. He thinks it would be good fun and that it will help inspire his next book. Instead, the seance summons up the ghost of Elvira (Maryruth Stine), his first wife, who’s isn’t pleased that Charles has remarried. His new wife, Ruth (Jennifer Summerfield), of course cannot see or hear Elvira, adding fuel for comedy.

Ms. Stine, decked in a fanciful gown with lace flowing from her arms as she moves, is terrific as Elvira. She glides about the stage, and makes it clear with look or a nicely delivered comment exactly what she thinks of the people in Charles life.

Jennifer Summerfield also does a great job as Ruth, slowly revealing Ruth’s less likable qualities and Ruth’s controlling nature.
It’s terrific to see this year’s Barrymore Award Lifetime Achievement winner Penelope Reed, Director Emeritus of Hedgerow Theatre Company, perform as the flamboyant Madame Arcati. Ms. Reed makes Madame Arcati an eccentric, whirlwind of energy, which helps keeps the pace of this classic three act play crisp and brisk.
Susan Wefel as Edith the maid almost steals the show with her entrances into the room to bring tea and answer the doorbells.

Michael Fuchs creates a pompous Dr. Bradman and Stacy Skinner shows us a very proper and conventional Mrs. Bradman.

Aaron Oster’s sound design captures the sounds of the 1940s time period.

Justin Baker’s lighting design is nicely done, although the orange string of lights at the top of the screen above the stage draws unnecessary focus away from the action on the stage below.

Costumes by Sarah Mitchell were well chosen for each character.
Shaun Yates’s drawing room set was nicely detailed.
Performances continue through Oct. 29.
If you go: Tickets can be ordered at, 610-565-4211 or online at Hedgerow Theatre is at 64 Rose Valley Road, Media. Shows are Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 16, there will be a special Pre-Show Talk with Parastudy Chairman of the Board Melinda Cahill who will give a brief talk on mediumship at 1:30 prior to the 2 p.m. show. Ms. Cahill is an intuitive reader using many tools for divination such as Tarot, crystal ball gazing, Tea leaves, palms, stones and more. Specializing in phone readings, she has clients throughout the United States and the UK.