In different hands, “Blithe Spirit” would be a horror story: a man haunted by the spirit of his first wife who schemes to kill him so they can be together forever in the afterworld. Thankfully, the play came from the pen of Noël Coward, who is more interested in wringing wry humor out of the supernatural situation.
Director Jon Cranney makes “Blithe Spirit” mostly entertaining in the Old Log Theatre’s new production, though the version is longer on amusement than out-and-out laughs.
The opening scenes are as dry as the martinis the characters guzzle. Author Charles Condomine wants to spice up his new supernatural-tinged mystery with some authentic detail, so he’s invited local medium Madame Arcati for dinner and a bit of table tapping.
The action soon picks up as Charles gets more than flavor. Somehow, the spirit of his first wife, Elvira, has returned from beyond to haunt him. Mind you, no one else can see her — especially not his current wife, Ruth, who thinks her husband is going mad.
He may be, but it’s more due to his second wife nagging him to have her quiet home back and from his first wife planning spectral homicide.
Coward’s characters are often funny, but unlikable. Sean and Emily Dooley hew closer to the unlikable as Charles and Ruth, which contributes to the play’s slow start. Once Katherine Ferrand’s Madame Arcati and especially Summer Hagen’s (ahem) free-spirited Elvira arrive, the comedic pace quickens and we get a thoroughly entertaining second act.
Ed Huyck is a Minneapolis writer.