Ghostly love story kicks off theater season


Matt Barney

Blithe Spirit, Noel Coward’s 1941 play about a ghostly love triangle, kicks off Southern’s fall theater season. The play is part of the British themed semester events. The character of Ruth is played by Kristin Younts, left, while Elvira is Valerie Stockton . The role of novelist Charles Condomine, the man both women love, is played by Forest Bunter.

Matt Barney

The Missouri Southern 2016-2017 Theatre season opens next Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, with the performance of Noël Coward’s 1941 classic, Blithe Spirit which has been in the popular repertoire since 1944.

The play deals with the socialite and novelist Charles Condomine, who summons the peculiar and unconventional medium and clairvoyant, Madame Arcati, to his home to conduct a séance, to gather information for his upcoming book. The scheme backfires when he is haunted by the ghost of his annoying and temperamental first wife, Elvira, after the séance. Elvira makes continual attempts to disrupt Charles’s marriage to his second wife, Ruth, who cannot see or hear the ghost.

“This is our offering for the Great Britain Semester,” said Dr. Jim Lile, director and theater professor. “It’s set in England with terribly English characters, so it seemed a great fit for Southern Theatre to do this to kick off the themed semester.”

The playwright, Sir Noël Peirce Coward, was a prominent English figure in many forms of popular entertainment and was also successful as a composer, director, actor, and singer. 

Coward, known for his wit, flamboyance, and what Time magazine called “a sense of personal style, a combination of cheek and chic, pose and poise,” published more than 50 plays from his teens onwards.

Following the play’s initial production in 1941, the reviewer for The Manchester Guardian described the production as, “an odd mixture and not untouched by genius of a sort.” Since then, the play has remained a favorite among Coward’s works.

“[The character] Charles is brilliant, witty, quick, but also very pompous, so he’s been a fun character to get to know,” said Forrest Bunter, senior vocal performance music major who portrays Charles.

Valerie Stockton, senior theater major, plays the role of Elvira, the ghost that mysteriously returns from the other side to get the attention of her husband Charles. Elvira, the dead socialite, along with the rest of the cast are English characters, meaning the cast was required to brush up on their English accents. 

Stockton says she prepared by watching a lot of TV and YouTube videos.

“It’s still a work in progress,” she said. 

Blithe Spirit debuts at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, and runs through Saturday, Sept. 17, in the Bud Walton Theatre. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and non-MSSU students, and free for MSSU students, faculty and staff.

 “[Blithe Spirit] is witty, it’s charming, it’s a different kind of comedy than what some of our audience might be used to,” said Lile.  “But it’s interesting, it’s fun, and it’s a really funny story so I hope people will come with an open mind and give it a chance.”