Blithe Spirit | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Blithe Spirit, Impulse Theatre Company, at Bailiwick Repertory. "We have no guarantee that the afterlife will be any less exasperating than this one," declares Charles Condomine to professional psychic Madame Arcati, whose quackery--uh, craft--he's researching for his next novel. Little does the hapless writer suspect that soon he'll be haunted by the mischievously provoking ghost of the first Mrs. Condomine--to the chagrin of the shrewish second Mrs. Condomine.

Yes, it's Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit, the popular 1941 penthouse comedy. Impulse director Nick Bowling's interpretation of this venerable work falls somewhere between the featherweight brittleness of its original period and the heavy-handed weariness of the community-theater staple it has become. Certainly the uniformly youthful cast embrace their roles with energy and gusto: Amy Heath and Amy Fulgham generate some nice dueling-diva chemistry as the mesdames Condomine, Robert McLean is suitably befuddled as the put-upon Charles, and Jeanette Wiggins as Madame Arcati--the happy medium--has the bearing of a parade float and the pragmatism of a cavalry general. Costume designer Tina Howard reproduces pre-World War II fashions with plausible accuracy, but Kevin Hagan's bare-walled set looks oddly unfinished. Still, this production exhibits none of the lead-footed clumsiness so often afforded the classics by neophyte companies. Keep an eye on these folks.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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