Perched in a seat where less than a week from now an audience will assemble, director Susan McCain made minute adjustments to prop placement and line delivery for the upcoming production of “Blithe Spirit.”
McCain, director with the JSU drama department since 1992, described the play, written by Noel Coward, as “full of farce and comedy.”
The story is set in England in the late 1930s. Novelist Charles Condomine invites a medium by the name of Madame Arcati and another couple to his home for an evening of entertainment in the hopes of finding inspiration for his next book. Madame Arcati surprises Charles by bringing back his first wife, Elvira, from the dead, which leads to comedic troubles with his new wife, Ruth.
“It involves that intrigue between her and the new wife,” McCain said. “It’s witty line after witty line.”
McCain said she’s proud of the actors, who have been hard at work since rehersals for the three-act play began in April.
“To do a Noel Coward show well it has to be done precisely,” she said. “We’ve really worked to keep it clean and sharp.”
Daniel King, a senior theater major, described the play as a “well-composed comedy.”
King sees his character, Charles Condomine, as a reasonable and considerate man, he said. But it’s Charles’ demeanor that provides several humorous moments when his first wife appears and he’s the only character who can see her.
“Everyone thinks that I’m initially insane,” King said.
Lauren Crider, also a senior theater major, credits the chemistry between herself and fellow actors as the reason the characters are so believable.
“We just work together so well. I just don’t feel like it could have been cast any better,” she said.
Crider’s character, Elvira, is Charles’ enchanting and flirtatious first wife who suffered an untimely death from laughter.
“She wants to charm him so she can keep him with her forever,” Crider explained. “She’s not going to let anything stand in her way.”
Crider said she hopes people will come see the play, even if it’s just for a change of pace.
“It’s an art form that people take for granted nowadays because you have TV and movies,” she said.
Rebekah Payne, another senior theater major, said she’s enjoyed her time with the JSU drama department, especially working with McCain.
The veteran director “speaks in riddles,” Payne said. “But once you understand her language everything that comes out of her mouth is brilliant.”
Payne plays the mystical medium, an eccentric character who shares Payne’s theatrical bent. “Everywhere she goes, it’s a performance,” she said.
All the characters doubt Madame Arcati’s abilities, though at times she struggles to explain her own skills.
“This character is aware of everything that’s going on. She’s aware that they don’t believe what she does is real, but she’s ready to prove them wrong,” Payne said.
Perfecting the British accent came easily for sophomore Dillion Everett, who plays the pompous Dr. George Bradman, since he’s visited London twice.
“The first time I went I came back and was talking in a British accent for two weeks and my friends went absolutely batty,” Everett said in his English brogue.
Everett said some of the humor is dry, so it’s important for the actors to enunciate lines and use body language to make sure the audience can follow along.
“It’s going to be close to a two and a half-hour show and it’s hilarious,” Everett said.
IF YOU GO...
WHAT: JSU drama presents Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit”
WHERE: Ernest Stone Performing Arts Center, JSU campus
WHEN: May 15-19, curtain opens at 7 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
TICKETS: Adults $10; senior citizens and JSU personnel $8; students, children and military $5