Noël Coward’s “Blithe Spirit” comes to the Walnut

-Courtesy of Walnut Street Theatre

Walnut Street Theatre (WST) continues its 213th season with Noël Coward’s fiendishly funny comedy, BLITHE SPIRIT. Directed by Walnut Producing Artistic Director Bernard Havard, the production begins previews on January 11, opens January 19, and continues through February 13 on the Walnut’s Mainstage. Tickets and times can be found here.

To gather background for his new book, novelist Charles Condomine and his second wife, Ruth, invite the eccentric medium, Madame Arcati, to perform a séance. But Charles’ spiritual skepticism vanishes when the ghost of his deceased first wife, Elvira, accidentally materializes—but only to him. Elvira’s still in love and wants Charles back, and is not about to let a little thing like death stand in her way! From the delightfully wicked mind of Noël Coward comes BLITHE SPIRIT, where love and marriage devolve into laughter and mayhem – and ‘Till Death Do Us Part’ no longer applies.

English playwright Noël Coward, known for his biting wit and distinct sense of style, wrote BLITHE SPIRIT in 1941. At the time, Coward was visiting Wales as his office in London had been destroyed in the Second World War. On this trip, he developed his idea for a playful comedy about ghosts and timeless romantic relationships. The play premiered in the West End that year, where it was met with critical acclaim for its mixture of farce and dark humor. The Walnut’s production features an all-star cast of Philadelphia actors, with two pairs of married actors playing onstage couples in this clever story of romantic and supernatural mishaps.

Walnut Producing Artistic Director Bernard Havard will bring Coward’s classic to the stage as director. Havard’s Walnut directorial credits include A Woman of No ImportanceThe HumansGod of CarnageARTSomeone to Watch Over MeSkylight, and Driving Miss Daisy. He has spent his life in theatre as an actor, stage manager, director, managing director and producer. Recognized as one of America’s leading theatre producers, he has proudly served America’s Oldest Theatre for over 39 years. Under his leadership, the Walnut became a not-for-profit, self-producing theatre and has gained international recognition as one of America’s premier regional theatres.

Actors Ian Merrill Peakes and Karen Peakes, one of two real-life married couples in the cast of Walnut favorites, will lead as Charles and Ruth Condomine. Ian, assuming the role of the self-absorbed author, is a Walnut veteran with credits including Woman of No ImportanceThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TimeMatilda, and Of Mice and Men. A proud Philadelphia actor, this will be his 134th professional production in his distinguished career that includes three Barrymore Awards, a Helen Hayes Award, and two Best of Denver Awards. Karen, who plays Charles’ strait-laced second wife, Ruth, has been seen on the Walnut stage in plays such as A Woman of No ImportanceThe Curious Incident…, A Comedy of Tenors, and Fallen Angels. Her Philadelphia theatre experience includes work at The Arden, People’s Light, The Wilma and more. When not on the stage, she is also an Audie Award-nominated audiobook narrator of over 80 titles.

Greg Wood and Susan Riley Stevens, also married in real life, return to the Walnut to play Dr. and Mrs. Bradman. Audiences will remember Wood’s work at the Walnut in productions such as The Best ManThe Curious Incident…Noises OffThe HumansPrivate Lives, and many more. His work in film and TV includes The Sixth SenseSignsThe Happening, and Law & Order. Stevens was last seen on Walnut’s Independence Studio 3 in Meteor Shower, and her work at the Walnut also includes The Curious Incident…, Noises Off, Fallen Angels, God of Carnage, and A Streetcar Named Desire. She has performed at other theatres across the country, including Actors Theatre of Louisville, Dallas Theatre Center, and Portland Stage Company.

Philadelphia actress Alicia Roper will haunt the stage as she plays the deviously lovelorn ghost of Charles’ deceased first wife, Elvira. In addition to her work at theatres such as Yale Repertory, Cleveland Play House, and Seattle Children’s Theatre, her Walnut credits include A Woman of No ImportanceThe Curious Incident…Beautiful Boy, and The Philadelphia Story. Mary Martello returns as the extremely quirky medium, Madame Acarti. Martello has been in over 30 productions at the Walnut, including Young Frankenstein, Annie, The Humans,and 9 to 5. In her impressive career, she has received five Barrymore awards and performed at Philadelphia theatres such as 1812 Productions, The Wilma, and The Arden. Amanda Jill Robinson, a Philadelphia-based actress, composer, and theatre educator, plays the Condomine’s maid, Edith. Robinson’s work at the Walnut includes The Gifts of the Magi and Winter Wonderettes. In addition to work at 1812 Productions, Act II Playhouse, and more, Robinson is a founding member of The Greenfield Collective.

Scenic Designer Roman Tatarowicz (A Woman of No Importance, Meteor ShowerThe Curious Incident…) returns to the Walnut to bring audiences into Charles Condomine’s lavish living room. Creating the stylish outfits of 1940’s England is Costume Designer Mary Folino (The Little MermaidBeehive, Shrek The Musical). Hair and Makeup Designers Will Vicari and Krystal Balleza (The Little MermaidShrek) join Folino to complete the looks for the characters, including the ghostly glow of Condomine’s visitors. They are joined by Lighting Designer Shon Causer (A Woman of No Importance, A Comedy of Tenors, The Humans) and eight-time Barrymore Award winning Sound Designer Christopher Colucci (A Woman of No Importance, A Comedy of Tenors, and The Humans).

COVID-19 SAFETY POLICY
Walnut Street Theatre is continuing to work with guidelines from the CDC, Pennsylvania Department of Health, and Philadelphia Department of Health to develop the most comprehensive plan to keep patrons, artists, and employees safe. Everyone in the theatre must wear acceptable face coverings at all times, including during the show, except while eating or drinking when seated in Barrymore’s Cafe, located in the lower lobby. All face coverings must cover the nose and mouth and comply with the CDC guidelines for acceptable face coverings.

Guests ages 12 and up will need to be fully vaccinated with an FDA or WHO authorized vaccine to attend a show and must show proof of vaccination at their time of entry into the theatre with their valid ticket. Guests ages 5-11 will need to be vaccinated with at least one dose of an FDA or WHO authorized vaccine or present a negative test and must show proof at their time of entry. Guests under 5 and those who need reasonable accommodations due to a medical condition or sincerely held religious belief must provide proof of either a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of the performance or a negative COVID-19 rapid antigen test taken within 6 hours of the performance, in addition to properly wearing a mask inside the building. For more information visit WalnutStreetTheatre.org/visit/safety.php.

ABOUT THE WALNUT STREET THEATRE
Walnut Street Theatre is America’s Oldest Theatre and the most popular theatre company in Philadelphia. As a producer of live theatre, many of the artists on the stage, in the orchestra and behind the scenes are from the Philadelphia area. As a non-profit institution, the Walnut is recognized nationally for bringing affordable theatre and diverse stories to more subscribers than any other theatre company in the world. In addition to its five Mainstage productions, popular Walnut Street Theatre for Kids Series and Independence Studio on 3 Series, the Walnut’s education and outreach programs bring live theatre to over 100,000 students, teachers, parents, and kids every year.

825 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107–5195 | 215-574-3550 VISIT US AT WalnutStreetTheatre.org

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