Dark comedy makes light of afterlife


The work of English playwright Noel Coward arrived at the Geneseo stage on Nov. 22 and 23 with performances of “Blithe Spirit” in the Knight Spot. The dark comedy was staged as a collaborative effort between Cothurnus and VegSoup, who made the most of the venue despite its shortcomings as a proper theater.

The play tells the story of author and socialite Charles Condomine, who invites the eccentric medium Madame Arcati to a dinner party at his home in search of material for his next novel. Arcati conducts a séance, which results in the materialization of Charles’s deceased wife, Elvira. The ghost of Elvira haunts Charles to the point of madness, prompting him to invite Arcati back to his home in hope of exorcising the spirit. But Arcati succeeds only in materializing Charles’ now-deceased second wife Ruth, who was killed as a result Elvira’s efforts to disrupt Charles’s second marriage.

The unfortunate Charles finds himself haunted by both of his deceased wives and desperately calls on Madame Arcati again to exorcize the spirits. After her first several attempts are foiled, Arcati finally succeeds when she determined that the housemaid Edith is a psychic conduit through whom the spirits had materialized. The play ends with Charles sneaking away after Arcati warns him that the spirits may still be about.

The joint performance by Cothurnus and VegSoup was a comedic success. The cast often brought the audience to giggles with its ghastly antics. Senior Christina O’Shea portrayed the ghost of Elvira as an entertainingly “blithe spirit,” mixing feigned disinterest with the true desperation for which the role calls.

Junior Grant Kusick’s performance interpreted Charles Condomine as a man near the end of his rope, introducing feelings of psychotic madness. This performance found success as well, as his often frantic movements drew plenty of laughs. Played by junior Jordan Keane, Arcati was satisfyingly eccentric, convincingly acting like someone truly in touch with the supernatural.

Despite having to perform in the Knight Spot, which lacks theater lighting, seating and a proper stage, the performers made the most of the space. The limited set worked well for Kusick’s self-contained Condomine, and the limited size made for an intimate feel overall.

The performance of “Blithe Spirit” was a big success. Hopefully, the ghostly show’s limited run will breathe new life into two valued student groups.