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Theater: Coward’s comedy 

Savannah Community Theatre presents ghostly but fun Blithe Spirit

<0>If Pepi Streiff seems a bit distracted lately, it may be because she’s having to learn a lot of lines in a very short time.

“I got the script on Sunday,” Streiff says. “I’ve been studying lines like crazy lady ever since. We’ve been rehearsing day and night.”

Streiff and her fellow cast members are preparing for the opening of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit at the Savannah Community Theater. Imagine holding a seance and calling up the one long-departed spirit you definitely don’t want to see.

Coward’s comedy hit of the London and Broadway stages takes this premise to hysterical heights. Blithe Spirit will be presented by the Savannah Community Theatre June 7-12.

To get background for a new book, Charles, an author, and his second wife, Ruth, arrange for a local mystic, Madame Arcati, to give a séance. However, Madame Arcati mistakenly brings Charles’ first wife, Elvira, back from beyond the grave.

Elvira makes Charles’ life miserable, but only he can see her. However, Ruth becomes a believer in the supernatural when a vase is handed to her in thin air. She gets very irritated with her supernatural rival.

Madame Arcati, in the meantime, is at her wit’s end as to how to sort things out. It all makes for a lot of laughs, but the production experienced a bit of drama when Dandy Barrett, who was playing Madame Arcati, had to be hospitalized.

The company immediately began to regroup, and Streiff was bumped up to the role of Madame Arcati. Fortunately, she is up for the challenge.

“Noel Coward is without a doubt one of my favorite playwrights,” Streiff says. “This is a role I’ve wanted to play for more than 20 years.

“I’m thrilled to have the part,” Streiff says. “She’s as crazy as a bedbug, and it’s fun to play her. “

Renee DeRossett originally was stage manager for the production, but was asked to take over Streiff’s role as Mrs. Bradman. “It’s a good cast and it’s going to be a darling show,” she says. “My character is ditsy and funny. There are some special effects -- vases fly, books fly, doors open and slam.”

Although she’ll be acting, DeRossett doesn’t get to escape her stage manger duties. “I’ll be doing lights and sounds in costume,” she says. “Here, we do it all. This is Noel Coward at his best. Everybody is doing a great job.”

Kyle Price plays Charles, the beleaguered husband. “I have one of most confusing roles because I’m the only one can see my dead wife,” he says.

While confusing, the role isn’t hard to play, Price says. “I have the easiest part because I actually get to look at her while I’m on stage,” he says.

Kim Schneider plays the deceased first wife. “I do love Elvira,” she says. “She’s naughty. She’s been dead for seven years and she’s not in the best of moods.”

Schneider is the house manager for the Savannah Community Theatre. “Now it’s my turn to come back on stage,” she says. “I’m so excited. I couldn’t have found a better way to come back and close out the season.”

Everyone in the cast loves Noel Coward. “I love that fast wit, that sharp bantering back and forth,” Schneider says. “There’s always a genuine smart aleck in a Noel Coward play and I love that.”

Barrett’s being hospitalized was a real blow to the rest of the cast. “I just spoke to her yesterday and she’s doing well,” Schneider says.

While the casts’ first concern was Barrett, they also had a show to put on. “We said, ‘Let’s just suck it up and get out heads in the script,’” Schneider says.

“You can’t let it throw you,” she says. “You just keep on keeping on and that’s what we’ve done.”

Others in the cast include Danielle Frazier as Edith, Greta Cribbs as Ruth and Tom Cannon as Dr. Bradman. The production is being directed by J. Tom Coleman III.

“I was a technical director on it many years ago and it was one of the most popular shows we had done,” Coleman says. “When I suggested shows at the beginning of last year, I got more reaction for this one than any others on the list.”

What: Blithe Spirit by Noel Coward.When: June 7, 12, 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m. and June 8 and 15 at 3 p.m.Where: Savannah Community Theatre, 2160 E. Victory Dr.Cost: Adults $25, seniors 55+/military $20, Sunday matinee/students/children $15.00 and Thursdays $10.Info: 898-9021 or www.savannahcommunitytheatre.com.
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Linda Sickler

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Connect Today 12.10.2016

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