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Blithe Spirit 


A play featuring a couple of ghosts seems like a jolly idea for this Halloween week. Especially Blithe Spirit, a famed comedy by the celebrated writer of snappy, brittle British dialogue, Noël Coward. Alas, much of the snap has vanished into thin air in the second show of the first season for Echo Theatre, whose mission is "to bring high quality theatre to the Pittsburgh Airport and Sewickley Valley area."

Notwithstanding the laudable aim, consider the result as fairly consistent with community-theater quality: better off not being measured by the standards of theater-knowledgeable frequent fliers or sophisticated Sewicklians.

The play finds Charles setting up a séance with a local medium, Madame Arcati; he and his second wife, Ruth, expect skeptical amusement. But Charles' dead first wife, Elvira, materializes -- a frightful problem. Charles, evidently the only person who can see and hear the ghost, can't help creating domestic stress. And Elvira has a few tricks up her invisible sleeve whose unexpected consequences cause Charles and Ruth major mischief, unless Arcati can solve the problems.

Seeing Coward's piece again could be a revelation. His clever premise created chances for spiffy fun with memorable characters. He also gave reasonable credence to the idea that mortals can contact spirits. Thus, though Arcati seems quite dotty, she's onto a thing or two.

On the other hand, Coward's bit about Charles' testiness with Elvira making Ruth think he's snapping at her, should have been killed off sooner. And, later, when Charles and Elvira bring up unburied doubts about past marital side-trips, you might wish they'd shut up and get on with life ... or death.

Among the seven-member cast, two principal players have polish, poise and the ability to project basic personalities. The other five show less style, skill and character definition (though no one, fortunately, takes on the unnecessary burden of attempting an English accent).

Cast and crew all have stage experience, including director Ryan Howe, who came up with a few well-devised moments. Sometimes, though, the results look more amateurish than you might expect. Opening night, a goodly number of people who might have been friends and neighbors seemed to have a good time. Your own perceptions, if not too critical, might permit you an enjoyable evening.

Blithe Spirit continues through Nov. 10. OLSH Theatre, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart High School, 1504 Woodcrest Ave., Moon Township. 412-352-2539 or www.echo-theatre.org

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