A Noise Within (ANW), the acclaimed classical repertory theatre company, presents Noel Coward's timeless comedic gem Blithe Spirit, directed by Damaso Rodriguez, which opens Saturday, October 9 and closes Friday, December 17, 2010 (previews begin Saturday, October 2). In Coward's masterpiece, a quintessential ensemble work, novelist Charles Condomine and his wife Ruth get more than they bargained for when an after-dinner seance led by local spiritualist/eccentric Madame Arcati produces an uninvited guest from the great beyond to crash the party, prompting a delightfully cosmic clash of personalities both worldly and otherwise.
In this glittering comedy of the soul that ponders the eternal essence of what it is to be in a relationship, Coward's mastery of comedy is on display with extraordinary wit, talent for crafting an exquisite story and sense of timing. Blithe Spirit premiered in London's West End in 1941, setting a run-record for non-musical British plays of 1,997 performances, and subsequently ran on Broadway for 657 performances. In 1945, Coward himself adapted the play for a film starring Rex Harrison and in 1964 directed on Broadway a musical adaptation, High Spirits. The play has enjoyed numerous revivals including a 2009 run on Broadway.
The cast features Gibby Brand (Dr. Bradman), Jacque Lynn Colton (Mrs. Bradman), Abby Craden (Elvira Condomine), Alison Elliott (Edith), Scott Lowell (Charles Condomine), Jane Macfie (Madame Arcati), and Jill Van Velzer (Ruth Condomine).
Rodriguez, co-artistic director of Furious Theatre Company and 2000 participant in ANW's Professional Internship Program, says, "Blithe Spirit is one of the funniest and most popular plays of the 20th century, full of Coward's razor-sharp dialogue and containing two of his most memorable comic creations: Elvira, the blithe spirit of the title, and the eccentric psychic Madame Arcati. Coward's plays are extremely smart and occasionally subversive, with sentiments well ahead of their times. Our production will keep Coward's mid-1930s English countryside setting, while looking to reveal his surprisingly contemporary world view." Rodriguez adds, "I find it inspiring that Coward wrote Blithe Spirit at the height of Britain's involvement in World War II in 1941 while his country was living through the sustained bombing of the Nazi Blitz, yet the play contains no reference to those troubled times. He apparently wanted audiences to come to the theatre to escape their troubles by enjoying his comic ghost story. I hope A Noise Within audiences will do the same."
To enhance the theatre-going experience, A Noise Within offers comprehensive study guides for every production, each with a synopsis, director's notes, general theatre lore, links to other resources and detailed information about the playwright, characters, setting, period, costumes, scenic design, music and more. The Blithe Spirit Study Guide along with those for previous A Noise Within productions are available on-line at http://www.anoisewithin.org/education_studyguides.html.
A Noise Within (ANW) is the only year-round classical repertory company in Southern California and one of only a handful in the entire country dedicated solely to producing classical dramatic literature in the repertory tradition of rotating productions with a resident company of professional artists. Led by Co-Founders and Co-Artistic Directors Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott, A Noise Within has been hailed by critics as "adventurous," "compelling and current," "ingenuity at work," "a bona fide class act," and "what great theatre is all about." Founded 19 seasons ago, ANW quickly established itself as one of the region's key theatre companies, attracting fiercely loyal audiences and consistently high praise from the media for its productions and as a leading force in arts education. The company has presented more than 120 plays from the classics of world literature, each season producing works from authors ranging from Shakespeare and Molière to Ibsen, O'Neill and Shaw to Miller and Williams. ANW's consistent dedication to quality has been rewarded with more than two dozen Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards as well as numerous LA Weekly and Backstage Garland awards. A Noise Within's next chapter provides the long-awaited opportunity to sink deep and lasting roots when the company moves in 2011 from its long-time base in Glendale to a spectacular, permanent home in a Pasadena mixed-use development at the corner of Foothill Boulevard and Sierra Madre Villa Avenue. The facility, hailed as an anchor in East Pasadena's arts growth, is designed to broaden A Noise Within's artistic possibilities, offer a greater scope of educational opportunities, meet ticket demand and allow the company to expand its role as a leader in the presentation and preservation of classical theatre.
Blithe Spirit marks the A Noise Within directorial debut of DAMASO RODRIGUEZ (director), who served as assistant director the company's 2001 production of Noel Coward's Hay Fever and participated in ANW's Professional Internship Program in 2000. Rodriguez (no relation to ANW Co-Founder/Co-Artistic Director Julia Rodriguez-Elliott) is co-artistic Director of the acclaimed Furious Theatre Company, where he has directed over 20 productions. He previously served for three seasons as associate artistic director of Pasadena Playhouse. There, he oversaw all programming for The Playhouse's Second Stage, The Carrie Hamilton Theatre, including its Hothouse New Play Development program. He has directed many award-winning, critically acclaimed productions at such theatres as Seattle's Tony Award-winning Intiman Theatre (Paradise Lost), the Pasadena Playhouse (Orson's Shadow, The Little Foxes) and Furious Theatre (Grace, The Pain and the Itch, The Playboy of the Western World). Rodriguez had received the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award, the Back Stage Garland Award, the NAACP Theatre Award, and the Pasadena Arts Council's Gold Crown Award. A member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, his upcoming projects include the world premiere of the graphic novel-inspired NOgoodDEED by Matt Pelfrey for Furious Theatre Company.
Veteran character actor Gibby Brand (Dr. Bradman), who graces A Noise Within's stage for the first time, has played recurring roles on such hit television shows as Numb3rs (M.E. Dr. Michael Sabello); Ally McBeal and The Practice (Judge Michael Gough); and Profiler (Jerzy Breslow), and has also guest starred on such other top-rated series as Parks and Recreation, Boston Legal, The West Wing, Law & Order, Judging Amy, and Even Stevens. His Broadway credits include the original companies of Neil Simon's Rumors and Stephen Sondheim's Passion and the revivals of Little Me starring James Coco, and Peter Pan starring Sandy Duncan. He also spent two and a half years as Cogsworth the Clock in Disney's long-running musical hit, Beauty and the Beast, both in New York and Los Angeles. In 1986, Brand traveled to Moscow with William Gibson's Rag Dolly as part of the first international exchange between the United States and the former Soviet Union. Locally he performed in Big River and the world premiere of The Dinner Party at the Mark Taper Forum; as Doc Baugh in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof starring John Goodman at The Geffen; The Music Man at the Hollywood Bowl; You Can't Take It With You at South Coast Rep; Mr. Etches in Titanic at South Bay CLO; Judge Wilson in 1776 and Mr. Weiss in Flora The Red Menace at Reprise; and Mushnick in Little Shop of Horrors at Cabrillo Music Theatre. Brand's regional credits include Death of a Salesman at Seattle Rep; She Loves Me at Goodspeed Opera House; Arsenic and Old Lace at the Cincinnati Playhouse; and Arms and the Man at Pioneer Theatre.
Also making her A Noise Within debut, Jacque Lynn Colton (Mrs. Bradman) has extensive theatre credits, including Summer and Smoke and the musical Two Gentlemen of Verona - as part of the first National tour - at the at the Ahmanson Theatre; Romance Language at the Mark Taper Forum; and Kingfish at both the Los Angeles Theatre Center and the New York Shakespeare Festival. She has also appeared in Long Beach Theatre Festival's productions of Cyrano de Bergerac and Our Town; Deathtrap at Sebastian West Dinner Theatre; Rumplestiltskin, Little Red Riding Hood and Bleacher Babes at Theatre West; Woyzeck at both Little Victory Theatre and New York International Fringe Festival; Two by La Mama, and many other productions at La Mama Hollywood; James Joyce's The Dead, Travesties, Roberto Zucco and others at Open Fist Theatre Company; How to Explain the History of Communism to Mental Patients at the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival; and Threepenny Opera at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble. In addition, Colton, who studied drama at University of Washington, is featured on the original cast recording of In Circles, and she has performed in Boy on the Straight-Back Chair at American Place Theatre; Huui-Huui at NYSF Public Theatre; The Disintegration of James Cherry at Lincoln Center Forum; The House of Blue Leaves at Truck and Warehouse Theatre; The Hostage at One Sheridan Square Playhouse; and Six From La Mama at Martinique Theatre. Her feature film work includes the soon-to-be released Watch Out for Slick, Smother, Mr. Mom, Love at First Bite, Iron Eagle, Gremlins 2, Just You and Me, Kid, Right of Way, and Homecoming. On television, Colton has had roles on Hart to Hart, Three's Company, The Judge, All My Children, Charles in Charge, Medical Center, and Mary.
A Noise Within Resident Artist Abby Craden (Elvira Condomine) previously appeared with the company as Charlotte in Don Juan, Joanna in Dear Brutus, Lady Capulet in Romeo and Juliet, Louka in Arms and the Man, Portia in Julius Caesar, Ruth in The Homecoming, Angela in The King Stag, Leonide in The Triumph of Love, Cherie in Bus Stop, Sorel in Hay Fever, Rosaura in Life is a Dream, Celimene in The Misanthrope, and Roxane in Cyrano de Bergerac. At Theatricum Botanicum, Craden played Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra, Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Olivia in Twelfth Night, Regan in King Lear, Millinette in Fashion, Bianca in The Taming of the Shrew, Sunshine Dore in Harold and Maude, Nina in The Seagull, and Abigail in The Crucible. Other productions include Isabelle in Measure for Measure at Portland Center for the Performing Arts; Nora in A Doll's House at LA Rep Co; Indiscretions and The Illusions at Ensemble Theatre of Santa Barbara; and Deep Eyes at LA Theatre Center. Among her film and television credits are Water Dreams, After Midnight, Flamingo Dreams, Portrait of Madame Marousia, Cold Love, Born to Lose, In Rhyme, Only Human, and Blood Plus. Craden studied acting with Larry Moss, the Boston University Conservatory Program and HB Studios.
BLITHE Spirit marks recent UCLA graduate ALISON ELLIOTT's (Edith) eleventh production with A Noise Within. Her other company credits are A Doll's House, A Christmas Carol, Skin of Our Teeth, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Man of La Mancha, The Winter's Tale, O'Pioneers, The Threepenny Opera, Oedipus and A Midsummer Night's Dream. At UCLA she appeared in Eurydice and Woyzeck, and was also featured at the Hannon Theatre Company in productions of My Fair Lady and Metamorphoses. Elliott is the daughter of ANW Co-Founders/Co-Artistic Directors Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott.
Denver-born, Connecticut transplant Scott Lowell (Charles Condomine), making his A Noise Within debut, majored in theater at Connecticut College and also studied acting at the National Theatre Institute before moving to Chicago where for more than a decade he immersed himself in local theater, performing at the famed Steppenwolf, where he appeared in Twelfth Night and the world premiere of Steve Martin's Picasso at the Lapin Agile, and at The Goodman, where he was featured in Chicago: Light Up The Sky and A Christmas Carol. Lowell's extensive stage credits include Oliver and Hannah at Blank Theatre's YPF, The Pain and the Itch at Furious Theatre/Boston Court; Orson's Shadow and Present Laughter at Pasadena Playhouse; Durang/Durang at Hollywood Court; and Caine Mutiny Court-martial and Anna Christie at LA TheatreWorks. Regionally he has appeared at the National Playwright's Conference at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center; The Heidi Chronicles at the Berkshire Theatre Festival; A Perfect Ganesh at Northlight; Laughter On The 23rd Floor at Briar Street; Assassins at Pegasus; The Chicago Conspiracy Trial at Remains Theatre; Much Ado About Nothing and King John at Chicago Shakespeare; and Incorruptible, Wild Honey and Orwell Down And Out at Bailiwick Rep. Among his television credits are guest appearances on Frasier, Caroline in the City, Heroes, and American Dad, and commercials for Nike, Lexus, Budget Rent-A-Car, and Payday candy. In 2004, Lowell received a Prism Award nomination for his performance as drug addict Ted Schmidt in Queer As Folk. On the feature front, Lowell has appeared in the films Chicago 8, The Debtor$, Damned If You Do, Ladies from LA, Love Bites, and Opus 27, in which he played a young Ludwig von Beethoven.
Also making her A Noise Within debut is Jane Macfie (Madame Arcati), who previously appeared as Ruth in a production of Blithe Spirit at the Grove Theatre Center, where she was also featured in Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, Twelfth Night, As You Like It, Private Lives, the Man Who Came to Dinner, Steel Magnolias, All's Well That Ends Well, and several other productions. In addition, her extensive theatrical credits include, at South Coast Rep, the Robby Award-winning How the Other Half Loves, Hay Fever, Major Barbara and Born Yesterday, as well as Dancing at Lughnasa at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Sir Peter Hall's Romeo and Juliet at the Ahmanson Theatre, The Country Wife and Twelfth Night at Berkeley Repertory Theater, and The Tempest at Berkeley Shakespeare Festival. She is a founding member of the Pasadena Shakespeare Company, where she performed in Beggar's Opera, the Dramalogue Award-winning production of Our Country's Good, Richard III, among others, and directed Arms and the Man, and Merry Wives of Windsor. On the East Coast, audiences have enjoyed Macfie in the Broadway productions of Long Day's Journey Into Night, and Ah, Wilderness!, Sarcophagus at Yale Rep, A Shayna Maidel at the Fulton Opera House, A Christmas Carol at Studio Arena, Cyrano de Bergerac at the Riverside Shakespeare Company, House of Blue Leaves and Quilters at Ozark Actor's Theatre, and Hamlet and Man of La Mancha at the Champlain Shakespeare Festival. Her film and television credits include Daddy's Little Angel on HBO, Frasier, Strong Medicine, Get Real and the award-winning short film High Water. She is a Yale School of Drama graduate.
Jill Van Velzer (Ruth Condomine), who is also making her A Noise Within debut, has appeared in the US and Canadian tours of The King and I; The Matchmaker; Early Poe; and the world premiere of Lend Me A Tenor: The Musical at the Utah Shakespearean Festival; Italian Straw Hat in workshop at South Coast Repertory; Harvey, directed by Charles Nelson Reilly, at Laguna Playhouse; God Save Gertrude, at Theater@Boston Court, which earned both Garland and Entertainment Today awards; and, at various Southern California and regional theatres, the Ovation Award-winning production of 1776, Into the Woods, She Loves Me, The Music Man, Camelot, Carousel, Kiss Me, Kate, the StageScene LA Award-winning Oklahoma!, Brigadoon, and The Sound of Music. Among Van Velzer's opera credits are her roles as Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute; Nella in Gianni Schicchi; and Lucy in The Telephone. A summa cum laude graduate of Pepperdine University, she appeared in such films as Breaking Through, One Last Hand and The Feast, as well as in commercials for Sony, Accenture, Netflix, Epson, and others.
Single Tickets are $46 (Friday and Saturday evenings, Sunday matinees); $42 (Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday evenings, Saturday matinees); and $32 (previews). Groups (10 or more) are $25, or $30 on Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees; School Groups (10 or more) are $16, or $20 on Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees.
A NOISE WITHIN is located at 234 South Brand Boulevard, Glendale, CA 91204. To purchase tickets or for a full season brochure, call 818-240-0910 x1 or visit www.ANoiseWithin.org.