Comedy with a bite

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Noel Coward is one of the best known playwrights of the 20th century, and stands next to Oscar Wilde as one of the best writers of wit and fast-paced dialogue.

Yet Coward’s work hasn’t been produced at the Arvada Center for decades, a trend that is now over with its production of “Blithe Spirit.”

The center, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., will run the play at its Black Box Theater from Jan. 22 through Feb. 17.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 1 p.m. Wednesdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

“Coward’s work is really enjoyable and so quick, but he has a little more edge and bite to his work,” said Rod A Lansberry, the play’s director. “The back and forth between the characters is different to direct because it’s so easy to get caught up in the rhythm.”

The story of “Blithe” revolves around Charles Condomine (Steven Cole Hughes), an upper class British author in the 1930s, who invites Madame Arcati (Beth Flynn) to his home to conduct a séance as research for his latest novel.

Things take a turn for the supernatural when Madame Arcati accidentally conjures up the ghost of his first wife, Elvira (Heather Lacy) — a ghost his new wife Ruth (Kate Berry) cannot see.

Madness and mayhem follow as Elvira tries to disrupt Charles’ marriage to Ruth, and then decides her husband should join her in the afterlife.

“Blithe” is the first time Lansberry, Hughes and Flynn have tackled Coward’s work, and have found the experience extremely challenging and fun.

“There is a line the character Ruth when she says, ‘Do you think it’s interesting how easily people let themselves be deceived?’ and I think that really sums up the play,” Hughes said. “I think the statement really applies to relationships, and that’s what the play is about.”

Flynn said she really enjoys the character of Madame Arcati, and how despite her eccentricities, she has a structure and regiment that works for her.

Flynn and Hughes believe that the play is much more of a social satire than a farce, and says a lot about the times Coward was writing in.

“There’s another quote from the play that says, ‘It’s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit’ and that says a lot about what he was trying to do,” Flynn said. “The play is very cerebral in what it’s doing.”

Lansberry said the play covers the changing opinion of the upper class and morals in society in its comedy, and that it really keeps the play relevant.

“It’s an amazing cast, the rapport between the characters is great,” he said. “For people who have never seen Coward’s work, it’s clever, witty and fun.”

For more information and tickets call 720-898-7200 or visit www.arvadacenter.org.

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