How many ghosts can fit into a house before the occupants go insane? Fairfax High School's theater troupe answered that question without breaking a sweat in its recent production of "Blithe Spirit."

Noel Coward's 1941 classic comedy tells the story of Charles Condomine, a writer who accidentally summons up the ghost of his first wife, Elvira, who refuses to leave. Soon, poor Charles must face all sorts of troubles: the jealousy of his (living) second wife, Ruth; plots by Elvira's ghost to murder him; and an overenthusiastic medium, Madame Arcati, who causes more problems than she solves.

Justin Vitalis played the straight man well as Charles, by turns intrigued, panicked and resigned. He clearly understood his character and lent depth to Charles's emotions.

Opposite Vitalis, Meredith Jones projected a strong presence as Ruth. Jones also was skilled at conveying a wide range of emotions and obviously believed every word of her lines. As Elvira, Kate Golkow was appropriately ethereal and brought the right touch of otherworldliness to Elvira's movements and voice.

As the scarf-twirling, seance-holding Madame Arcati, Nicky Dhaliwal portrayed a certain energetic naivete. She convincingly showed her character taking great delight in the presence of ghosts, despite the trouble they cause everyone else. Dhaliwal created a character who regards the whole thing as a fun challenge for her mystical abilities.

Joanna Gibson was endearingly simple as the servant, Edith, and responded well to the ensemble.

Rami Maarouf and Brittney Lewis were straightforward and provided two more straight characters, Dr. Bradman and his wife, Violet.

The technical aspects of this production were stunning. The set, by Grace Weik and Kat Ray, was well constructed and well coordinated, and fit the mood of the play. Beth Goodell and Grace Royer provided a wide range of props and some amazing effects.

During an unforgettable final scene, props flew off the walls as the mantel collapsed and the doors opened and closed of their own accord. Just before the curtain closed, the stage went dark, and ghostly writing appeared on the walls.

Lighting and sound were well done and complemented the set and the acting. Gabriella Adler and Sierra Salman provided excellent makeup for the pale and ghostly spirits.

Although some of the actors spoke a bit too fast, and the cast could do a little work on timing, the show was, overall, an amusing piece of theater.

Catherine Barton

Duke Ellington School

Of the Arts

Have you ever had the ghost of your first wife appear after a seance you hold for fun with your second wife and some friends? Well, that is exactly what happens to Charles Condomine in Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit," presented recently by Fairfax High School.

In Coward's zany 1941 comedy, Charles and Ruth Condomine invite their friends, the Bradmans, over to their house for dinner and a seance, to be conducted by the dubious medium Madame Arcati. It's supposed to be a light-hearted evening for the skeptical party-goers, but when Charles's first wife, Elvira, comes from beyond the grave and decides to stay, the jokes are on the Condomines.

The entire seven-member Fairfax cast was very strong and had great chemistry. Kate Golkow, as Elvira, had animated facial expressions and projected strong emotion in her voice, face -- even her posture.

Golkow's diction and delivery were very sharp, in contrast to some in the cast, who were sometimes difficult to hear and understand.

As Charles, Justin Vitalis brought his character to life through purposeful gestures and well-delivered lines.

Joanna Gibson was another notable member of the ensemble, even though her character, the servant Edith, seldom says anything more than "yes'm." But Gibson turned Edith into an interesting minor character.

In some spots, the show could have had more energy. But the drawbacks were overshadowed by impressive special effects.

At the end of the show, when all ghosts are supposedly gone, the doors leading to the back yard of the house swung open on their own, and fog was released from both the doors and the fireplace. Then, everything on the walls began to crash down and the set literally (intentionally) fell apart.

The effects, coordinated by Grace Royer, considerably enhanced the production and added a great deal of spirit to this "Blithe Spirit" of Fairfax High.

Jennifer Altman-Lupu

Walt Whitman High School