‘Blithe Spirit’ opens Thursday at Alpena Civic Theatre

Courtesy Photo by Bronwyn Woolman The cast of Alpena Civic Theatre’s “Blithe Spirit” poses at a recent rehearsal. Pictured, back row, from left, are Traci Boyle, Carol Rundell, Andrew MacNeill, and Isabel Luther. Seated in front are Kristin Loughery, Mitchell Stevenson, and Kirstine Furtaw.

ALPENA ­– October is the perfect month for a haunting, and that’s what you’ll get at Alpena Civic Theatre with “Blithe Spirit,” opening Thursday.

You’ll also get a heaping helping of laughs with this spooky comedy by Noel Coward. Set in the 1940s in England, “Blithe Spirit” centers around socialite and novelist Charles Condomine, who invites the eccentric medium Madame Arcati to his house to lead a seance, in hopes of collecting material for his next book. The plan backfires when he becomes haunted by the ghost of his strong-willed, hot-headed first wife, Elvira. The ghost, whom only he can see, continuosly attempts to disrupt Charles’s marriage to his second wife, Ruth. Things spiral further out of control as Elvira is determined to get her way, and Madame Arcati is called back to the house again to try to rectify a host of ghostly problems.

This “improbably farce,” as Coward described it, runs in three acts. Total run time is about two hours.

The seven-player cast features a mix of newcomers and seasoned ACT actors.

Traci Boyle is one of those newcomers, playing Edith, the haphazard maid who brings a lot of physical comedy to the stage. And an interesting accent. Many accents are portrayed in this play, including British, and some other European inflections.

“Edith just started a job, and she’s trying really hard to impress her boss, but she’s just a little flaky,” Boyle said. “She’s definitely got the drive, but the execution needs some work.”

Boyle is excited to make her debut on the ACT stage.

“This is, kind of, a lifelong bucket-list thing for me,” she said. “I was like, ‘I’m just going to do this.’ It’s been the most fun and most challenging thing I’ve done in a while. I had no idea the time commitment, but it really is just a joy to be here.”

She added, “My character has a big surprise in the show. I’m an underestimated character, but I rise to the occasion.”

Andrew MacNeill has peformed in six plays and worked lighting and sound at ACT many times. He has been acting since he was 14. MacNeill plays Dr. George Bradman, who is somewhat skeptical about the seance, but plays along because his wife, Violet Bradman, played by Isabel Luther, is very curious about the whole ordeal.

“I’ve been friends with Charles, the main character, for quite some time,” MacNeill said. “We’re kind of chummy. And they just invited us over for an evening of seance. They needed more than two people, so we were the ones invited. I’m the skeptical one.”

MacNeill continues to act and work behind the scenes at ACT because it’s a great atmosphere filled with creative people.

“I love it,” he said. “You come in here every night and it feels like a family around you. We all get to know each other very well. A lot of times you’re on stage with the same people over and over, and you bond. This is my second time working with Lucas (Moquin), and he’s a wonderful director. It’s just fun. It’s a lot of time, you put a lot of effort into it, but in the end, it’s very rewarding.”

Mitchell Stevenson portrays Charles, and Kirstine Furtaw makes her ACT debut as his wife, Ruth. Their witty banter is very amusing, and the accents add a layer of sophistication.

ACT veteran Carol Rundell plays Madame Arcati, whose eccentricity cannot be matched.

Kristin Loughery plays Elvira, the haunting star from the great beyond.

Director Lucas Moquin purposely planned this play for October because of its ghostly nature.

“It is a British comedy, so it’s very dry, it’s very witty,” Moquin said. “It’s basically rich British people behaving badly. But there’s ghosts … I wanted a spooky-themed show for Halloween to, kind of, kick off the season.”

Moquin has been impressed with the cast’s dedication and how well they are working together.

“They’re working together brilliantly,” Moquin said.

He is elated to see so many newcomers to ACT, and said the more experienced actors are eager to help the new ones learn the ropes.

“Out of a cast of seven, we have four brand-new faces to the stage,” Moquin said. “We have a wide variety of experience levels, which is always fun to work with. But the fact that we have so many new people here is terribly exciting, and, I think, something to celebrate.”

It takes a lot of people to put on a community theater production, and they’re all volunteers.

Joining Moquin behind the scenes are Assistant Director Bill Powell, Producer Rundell, Stage Manager Dani Ayotte, Assistants to the Stage Manager Zach Clement and Doreen Kriniak, Lighting Designer Jay Kettler, Sound Designer MacNeill, Paint Charge Danyeal Dorr, Costume Designer Mary Ann Crawford, Assistant Costumers Virginia Hulsey and Nan Hall. Moquin, Powell, and Tom Christianson designed and constructed the set, Taylor Ayotte painted the exterior sign, Bronwyn Woolman is the photographer, and she and Grace Morrison compiled the picture board. Box office volunteers include Fran Hamp, Jackie Herbert, Elaine Smith, Linda Suneson, Sue Jackowiak, Lois Darga, Gerry Cawthra, and Kate Sautter.

Tickets are selling fast. The play runs this weekend and Oct. 26 through 29. Evening performances begin at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 per adult, $8 per student. Call the box office at 989-354-3624. Leave a message with your name and number and you will receive a call back. ACT is located at 401 River St., Alpena.

“It’s great to put on a show like this for the community,” MacNeill added. “I think this is a very well-run theater for the size of town we have, and it’s excellent that we can pull all these people that just have such a love for the arts.”


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