ENMU does Coward classic ‘Blithe Spirit’

By Tova Fruchtman: CNJ staff writer

Anne Beck, director of Eastern New Mexico University’s production of “Blithe Spirit,” said she chose the play to bring laughter to people in a time when the national landscape is intense.

“Because it was a comedy, I thought it would be appropriate and needed,” she said.

Her reasons for choosing the show are not so different from the reason the play was written.

When British writer Noel Coward wrote the play in six days in 1941, England was in the midst of World War II.

Prior to writing the play, Coward wrote in his diary that the piece would be a “very gay, superficial comedy about a ghost.”

Philip Hoare described “Blithe Spirit” in the introduction he wrote to a collection of Coward’s plays published by Random House.

“It is certainly one of his funniest. It was black comedy taken to new, sophisticated heights, somewhat daringly dwelling with humor on the notion of death in a world in which death was just around the corner,” Hoare wrote.

Coward subtitled the play “An Improbable Farce in Three Acts.”

The plot revolves around novelist Charles Condomine, who holds a seance to do research for his next novel and is visited by his dead wife Elvira. Because the British sophisticate is married to Ruth, he must find a way to deal with both of his wives.

ENMU students in the play have had to master British accents and the mannerisms of the 1940s’ British upper class — even how to sit correctly, Beck said.

“It’s definitely a challenge. It’s a big challenge,” said John Moore, who plays the lead Charles Condomine. “The style is different from anything I’ve done before.”

This performance of “Blithe Spirit” is Moore’s senior recital.

Through the performance he gains credit toward his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

Beck said she also chose “Blithe Spirit” to enable Moore to perform in his first comedy.

Moore said this play rounds out his experience because most of the plays he has been in have been more serious.

Heather Maez plays Charles’ wife, Ruth. “I think (‘Blithe Spirit’) is really fun,” Maez said.

Seeing the play is a great way “to get away from everyday life and see something you wouldn’t normally see. It’s an escape,” Maez said.

Moore added: “I think that married couples will enjoy it.”
Blithe is defined in the dictionary as “carefree or light-hearted,” and Maez and Moore said all they want is for the audience to have a good time.