Brave Coward

You might think the “ghost that can be seen and heard by only one person” gag has lost its novelty, and perhaps it has, but the Grove Theater Center's production of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit, directed by Kevin Cochran, resurrects this old device with spellbinding success.

The actors' stellar performances enchant. With persuasive realism, they readily seduce the audience into the madcap world of this witty farce about Charles Condomine (David Allen Jones), an affluent writer who, while participating in a sance in hopes of learning the “tricks” of a clairvoyant (Mickey Crocker) for his new novel about a murderer, accidentally conjures his ex-wife's ghost (Patricia Boyette), causing himself and his current wife (Jane Macfie) great distress.

Set in the luxurious parlor of a quaint London home in the late 1920s, the play capitalizes on the pretensions typically associated with this environment by exposing its immoral social underpinnings. The love that seems to drive the relationships between Charles and his wives becomes just as fantastic as the play's events. It turns out, for instance, that the wacky clairvoyant, of whom all the other characters are skeptical, really does channel the spirits of the dead—and does it through the phantasmagoric consciousness of a petulant 7-year-old girl who died in 1884.

Transporting the audience onto the play's spectral plane is encumbered only by the transitions between scenes; there are no set changes, but lapses in time are awkwardly expressed by the absence of action on the stage combined with minor lighting changes.

But this is a minor problem. The performance is otherwise a symphony of delightfully quirky action, sardonic English humor, and unrelenting ectoplasmic suspense that poignantly articulates the play's main theme: the truth is more shocking than deceit.

Blithe Spirit at the Grove Theater Center's Gem Theater, 12852 Main St., Garden Grove, (714) 741-9555. Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m. Through March 26. $18.50-$22.50.

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