The Thespian club’s flagship event was put up this Sunday (9th April) at CLT. In a decided (and welcome) departure from their previous ventures, Stagecoach chose a comedy for their annual production. Blithe Spirit – a Noel Coward play – is witty and very British, unlike the morbid and political Pillowman and Bhopal (both of which rather put me off my dinner, even while I appreciated the performances). “I wanted something light-hearted, a comedy, something people could just enjoy without being emotionally stressed out”, says director Anurag Agarwal. And despite its length (two hours, twenty minutes), Blithe Spirit was well-executed and amusing, featuring some deft performances by its cast.
Atul Shreyas played Charles Condomine, a writer. Despite a slow delivery initially, he settled into the character and maintained a pale air of exasperated Britishness (“You won’t die. You’re not the dying sort”, he declares) through the rest of the play. We were also introduced to Ruth Condomine, his gracious, well-bred wife. Rathnika Thomas as Ruth gave a crisp performance. As their nervous maid Edith, Meenakshi Kumar was memorably clumsy. One evening, they invite their friends the Bradmans over to witness a séance. Charles wants material for his book and is ready to devour details of the supernatural. Dr. Bradman – Suhridh Sundaram in a small but good rendition – is a sceptic. Ramya Vijayram filled the role of his insipid wife with an adequate interpretation.
Stagecoach veteran Krupa Varghese played the eccentric, dry martini-loving clairvoyant Madame Acarti. As an earnest seeker of ‘ectoplasmic manifestations’, Krupa fell dramatically to the floor often in a trance, and – despite slow action from the production – dimmed lights repeatedly by flinging herself against the wall. In the words of her character, her performance was capital. And finally, as the petulant and maddening ghost Elvira, Sukanya Mukherjee was delightful, providing the play its comic strength. Dead for the last seven years, and jealous of Charles’ remarriage, Elvira is a disruptive force in her attempts to upend the Condomine household. A scene where she hovers around an unsuspecting Charles as he fixes a drink was particularly engaging. Krupa and Sukanya held up the play in parts where it tended to sag from limp delivery or forced dialogue. Blithe Spirit was bolstered also by a neat set and appropriate costumes. Despite a few lulls, the play was entertaining in an old-fashioned way and a much-needed breather from the heat outside.