ASR Theater ~~ Benicia Theatre Group’s Superb “Blithe Spirit”

By Denise Armistead

The B.D.E.S. Hall at 140 West J Street in Benicia may seem an unlikely place for a play involving a séance, but under Clinton Vidal’s skillful direction, the Benicia Theatre Group’s production of Noël Coward’s 1941 Blithe Spirit is a fun romp about the perils of long-term commitment, perfectly suiting the historic hall’s stage.

Coward’s hero, Charles Condomine, performed with adroit comic skill by Matt Cardigan-Smith, is a popular novelist who feels spooked by his past. Married to his second wife, the super-rational Ruth, played by Jenny Rastegar, who lends Ruth an air of steely ferocity, Charles holds a seance to research a thriller he’s writing about a homicidal medium.

“… a truly enjoyable production! …”

He invites a couple to the affair: Mrs. Bradman (Paige Whitney-White) and her husband, Dr. Bradman (Patrick Kenney). Whitney-White gracefully embodies her role of a properly skeptical British wife, while Kenney brings an air of medical professionalism to his character, although to this reviewer’s ear his British accent seemed a bit absent during the second act. The séance is led by a local medium, the bicycle-riding, cucumber sandwich-eating Madame Arcati (Donna Turner).

The jokey experiment causes marital mayhem when Charles finds his first wife, Elvira, portrayed by the alluringly beautiful Kelsey Bye, has suddenly materialized. Madame Arcati takes her trade seriously, and is delighted at her unexpected success at raising a spirit, even if only Charles can see her. What follows is a ghostly variation on the eternal triangle, with Charles torn between two equally demanding women, Elvira and Ruth.

Donna Turner as Madame Arcati does a lovely job of displaying hearty enthusiasm and finally genuine dismay when she learns she was summoned under false pretenses. Brittany Kamerschen rounds out the cast as Edith, the excitable maid.

Brian Hough’s handsome living room set becomes a character in itself, imploding impressively as the unquiet spirits settle in. Altogether, a truly enjoyable production!


Senior Reviewer Denise Armistead of St. Helena, has long enjoyed live theatre. Denise began writing reviews of local productions, and eventually made her way into the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle, where she is delighted to find a home. Her goal to see as many productions as she possibly can. Contact:

ProductionBlithe Spirit
Written byNoel Coward
Directed byClinton Vidal
Producing CompanyBenicia Theatre Group
Production DatesThru May 12th
Production AddressBDES Hall, 140 J St., Benicia
Telephone (707) 746-1269