It all started with what should have been a harmless evening of inspiration for his upcoming book.
Novelist Charles Condomine (Jacob Parafiniuk) and his second wife, Ruth (Audrey Young), have decided to host a dinner party at their home and invite medium Madame Arcati (Kelly Gibbs) to hold a séance at their home. While waiting for her arrival, they joke with guests Dr. George Bradman (Brent Laney) and Mrs. Bradman (Chrissy Doba) about the absurdity of the whole situation, clearly not expecting anything supernatural to truly happen.
However, it isn’t until all the guests leave when Charles sees an apparition of his deceased first wife, Elvira (Molly Parafiniuk), and “things get a little crazy from there,” Young said.
Elvira’s appearance sets the stage for ghostly destruction and confusion while Charles and Ruth’s maid Edith (Kelsey Hontz) anxiously darts back and forth from offstage as she follows orders.
While the majority of the cast are Theatrikos veterans, Jacob and Laney are making their debut on the local stage in this upcoming production of Noël Coward’s “Blithe Spirit.” The show will run April 6-22 with Friday and Saturday shows at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets range from $13-$24 and can be purchased online at www.theatrikos.com; by calling 774-1662; or by visiting the theater’s box office, which is open from noon to 6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and two hours prior to each performance.
When Coward debuted the play in the West End during World War II, Britain was undergoing the Blitz bombings from Germany and he felt some lighthearted entertainment was in order.
“He wrote something that was a way to kind of laugh at death, or not take it so seriously, and kind of question its finality,” explained director Amelia Swann. “It definitely was an escapist kind of thing to escape the darkness of reality and bring a bit of levity to the situation.”
Many of the cast members share the sentiment that theater and other forms of entertainment are important avenues to relieve stress.
“The first real production I ever saw was Hairspray and I remember leaving that just feeling so happy,” Young said. “After seeing it I was like, ‘I want to do this—make other people feel happy, take them away from their real lives for a little bit, give them that same escape that I felt when I was just a wee little thing.”
Hontz, who has been in two other Theatrikos MainStage productions, said, “Once you start, you get sucked in and you just want to keep doing shows here.”
For married couple Jacob and Molly, they said the stars aligned to give them the opportunity to act together in their particular roles for “Blithe Spirit.”
“What’s funny is before this show was even a glimmer in our eye, she said that if she ever died and I remarried she would come back and haunt me,” Jacob said. “She said that many times.”
“So when we saw the cast list I was like, ‘we have to do this because this is the dream. The dark, dark dream,’” Molly said with a laugh.
In the play, the presence of Charles’ first wife understandably causes a rift in his and Ruth’s marriage. Although Ruth can’t see Elvira, Elvira does her best to disrupt their marriage and keep Charles all for herself.
“We do have an argument scene together and I think that’s been kind of cathartic for both of us,” Molly said. “We can really go all out with each other and I think it feels more authentic because we already know how to fight with each other well, that it comes across well.”
Jim Taylor worked with the actors to perfect their English dialects, adding an authentic feel to their lines.
“I think the show is an unexpected treat,” Hontz said. “It seems a little dry when you just read the description, but so many things happen in the show that you just wouldn’t expect.”
Laney, who moved to Flagstaff from Colorado in October, has been an actor for over 25 years and said his experience with Theatrikos has been enjoyable.
“It’s fun to work with new people instead of the same five or 10 people you’ve been working with for 15 years,” he said. “Everyone here’s been really great and it’s a talented cast.”
Swann agreed with that and said the cast just came together perfectly.
“It’s become so much more than I could have imagined and I hope people come and laugh and enjoy it and have a good time,” she said.
”Don’t bother wearing socks,” Jacob advised potential audience members, “because they’re going to get blown off.”