Batavia Players to conjure up ‘Blithe Spirit’

Nov 1, 2018

What would happen if I hosted a seyance and a medium summoned the spirit of my ex-wife, but no one else could see her except me?

Writer Charles Condomine will find out soon enough when the Batavia Players perform “Blithe Spirit,” Friday through Sunday at Harvester 56. The play is directed by Jane Burk and features Steve Coburn as Charles, Erin Stamp as Ruth, Lucine Kauffman as Madame Arcati, Cynthia Nelson as Elvira, James Barcomb and Dawn Greene as Dr. Bradman and Mrs. Bradman, and Jacqueline Morrison as Edith.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. Performances will be at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. Sunday at the theater, 56 Harvester Ave.

Coburn said when the play begins, Charles’ goal is to write a book.

“He’s trying to get some information for his new book. He ends up, inadvertently, bringing back his deceased wife, which, since he’s currently married, creates a lot of very awkward and funny moments,” Coburn said.

“It’s been a challenge for me,” he said about rehearsing for the role. “This is the largest role I’ve ever had. Coupling that with learning a British accent, it’s been quite a challenge. It’s going to be a fun show.”

Coburn said he is participating in his sixth show with the Batavia Players.

“I’ve done a couple of the on-Broadway musical reviews. I was in ‘Frankenstein, the Musical’ and ‘Cabaret,’” he said.

Burk described “Blithe Spirit” as a “drawing room comedy.”

“He’s decided he wants to write an expose on the falseness of seyances. They (Charles and his second wife, Ruth) decide to have a dinner party,” she said. “Virtually all of the play revolves around him having to deal with situations that arise because of him having to deal with two wives ...”

Charles believes Madame Arcati, who comes to the house to conduct the seyance, is a fraud. However, she successfully summons his dead wife, Elvira.

“He will respond to things that Elvira is saying. Nobody else can see or hear Elvira,” said Burk. “The entire play takes place in their home. It takes place over the course of a few days.”

Kauffman is performing in her first production with the Batavia Players.

“It’s a very witty play. Obviously, it’s a comedy and I love that it is a period piece. Madame Arcati is just a wonderful role. I play a medium,” she said. “I’m also very status-conscious. My character likes to gossip and drop names. I’m invited to the home of this well-known writer and his wife and friends, so I want to feel like I fit in and I belong.”

Kauffman said she’s been in the musical “Great Gardens” and plays such as “The Laramie Project” and “No Exit.”

“I’ve also done some dramas and those really can get under your skin, if it’s a particularly sad or depressing story. I’ve played unsympathetic characters before and it’s difficult to play somebody you don’t like, and so I always try to find the humanity in every character,” she said. “Madame Arcati is very sincere. She really believes in what she’s doing and she really believes she has supernatural powers. She’s just kind of wacky.”

Nelson said “Blithe Spirit” is a very different type of show.

“No. 1, this is a comedy, so that’s already quite different. The interaction’s different, because of the fact that characters don’t always know I’m present because I’m a ghost (Elvira). The only person who can really see me is Charles. It’s been fun,” she said. “Jane Burk, the director, asked me (to be in the play) and I love working with her. I’ve worked with her on a few shows - with ‘Hamlet,’ she was the director on that and ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ She’s got great insight into characterization, which I really like.”

Greene said she’s pretty excited about her first show with the Batavia Players.

“I’ve done a lot of things in the past with Wyoming County Bicentennial Singers of Warsaw. I’ve done summer shows with them,” she said. “The show itself (“Blithe Spirit”) is a very funny show and so I’m pretty honored to be one of the actors to do it because Jane, she’s amazing. Also, to be able to branch out and meet new people in a completely different venue than anything I’m used to, that’s what’s really exciting about it, too.”

Greene said her character is submissive and is not what she is like in real life.

“My character, we’re talking England back in the 1930s. The whole ‘Me Too’ movement ... I’m a little ashamed, because I have three daughters, of how Mrs. Bradman behaves sometimes,” she said. “Every once in a while, I get to show my personality and how I feel.”

Burk, who’s been involved with the Batavia Players since the early ‘70s, said she hopes people will take the time to come and enjoy the show.

“I was in a production of ‘Blithe Spirit’ many years ago. I played the part of Elvira. I thought it would be fun to do,” she said of directing the play. “I have been involved directing for Harvester 56 for a number of years.”

By Brian Quinn, Batavia Daily News