Nothing beats watching actors at the top of their game biting into crunchy material and whipping it into a tasty delight. Ian Merrill Peakes doesn’t miss a beat as Charles Condomine, the man who plans a séance and ends up conjuring his late first wife much to the chagrin of the second. The glory of Peakes’s performance is how well he holds his character and doesn’t give into posing or doing comic shtick while conveying all of the froth and laughter with which Noel Coward endowed this piece. Anne Lewis’s direction is crisp, finding the right tone between comic mayhem and the brittle sophistication of the wealth and well-education as devised by The Master.
Peakes is the best of a great cast that includes the always reliable Eleanor Handley, constantly showing a new color of her acting palette as she creates characters for Pennsylvania Shakespeare and the Bristol Riverside Theatre, and wonderfully prim but equally discomfited Karen Peakes as Ruth, and the plausibly madcap Linda Thorson as Madame Arcati. Carl Wallnau and Joyce Cohen contribute as the Condomines’ friends and neighbors, but it the splendid timed and executed byplay between Peakes, Handley, and Peakes, that makes Lewis’s production such a rollicking and exhilarating a success. Especially in the scene in which Handley first materializes as Elvira, and Karen Peakes cannot understand when Ian’s Charles is talking to her or his difficult former wife. Thorson, sure hand that she’s always been, has some dishy moments when Madame A, goes into trances or gets giddy when she senses ectoplasm and knows how skilled she’s been at summoning a spirit from the undiscovered country from whose bourn a traveler named Elvira returned. Lewis and cast never flag. They get full mileage from Coward without ever forcing a joke or overplaying a line. Read more reviews on Neals Paper >>>
[2755 Station Avenue, Center Valley, PA] July 21-August 7, 2016; pashakespeare.org.