Mary Martello returns to Walnut Street Theatre as Madame Acarti in the supernatural comedy Blithe Spirit

-Brenda Hillegas
photos by Mark Garvin

Walnut Street Theatre is wrapping up its 213th season with Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit, playing now through July 3rd. This supernatural comedy centers around novelist Charles Condomine as he gathers materials for his latest book. When he takes his second wife, Ruth, to a séance performed by Madame Acarti, the ghost of his deceased first wife, Elvira, accidentally materializes… only to him! Mary Martello- who has been in over 30 productions at the Walnut- plays the quirky medium! Below, Mary talks more about the character and show, how it feels to be back on stage after COVID-19 delays, and the roles that meant the most to her over the years at Walnut Street Theatre.

Q: Tell us a bit about Madame Arcati. What makes her so quirky?
A: She is a spiritualist; a medium. She is and has always been very sensitive to the unseen dimension of life. That is her gift, and she has built her whole life around that. The constraints of the physical world don’t hold her as tightly.

Q: How does it feel to finally be able to bring Blithe Spirit to the Walnut Stage after COVID-19 delays?
A: I’m so very happy and grateful to do a full production for an audience. We all felt a sense of coitus interruptus back in January because we were about to go into tech when it got postponed. This is a role I’ve wanted to do since I was an apprentice at the Boarshead Theatre in Michigan in 1974 and watched an incredible comic actress named Carmen Decker do the part every night.

Q: Without giving too much away, what scenes or characters make you laugh the most when watching from backstage?
A: We can’t really watch from backstage due to the configuration of the set, but listening to the scene between all three Condomines after Elvira first appears makes me laugh.

Q: What do you hope audiences take away from this supernatural comedy?
A: That there are “more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy”!

Q: You have been a part of many shows at The Walnut. What characters have meant the most to you over the years? Why?
A: So many characters have been a delight to bring to life- Hesione in Triumph of Love; Elsa in The Sound of Music; Golde in Fiddler; the mother in Memphis; Vera Louise in Harvey; Frau Blucher in Young Frankenstein…and more! Each character teaches me something about life and the way I’m living it. And a lot has to do with the company of artists working together.

Q: Blithe Spirit wraps up the theatre’s 213th season. Any closing thoughts on the first season back after COVID-19 closures?
A: It’s so good to be working again and sharing space with audiences. There is always an undercurrent of worry about all the testing, and praying that you don’t test positive in spite of being vaccinated and boosted and trying to take precautions in your daily life. Thankful for good understudies!

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