Many yards of fishing line will play a big but unseen part of the Peninsula Players’ latest production.
Director Andy Tauber is hoping no one in the audience will see any of it.
“Blithe Spirit,” opens July 19 and runs two weekends at the River City Playhouse in Ilwaco, Wash.
The comedy offers actors opportunities to savor Noel Coward’s witty dialogue. But for backstage helpers, it’s a challenge.
“I will probably end up using every light we have because there is a lot going on,” Tauber said, during early rehearsals. “There are a lot of special effects,” he said, mentioning how his fishing line can be used to move objects. “Watch the actors, but also watch the walls and the bookshelf.”
Ghostly fog and mist and some eerie green lights are among the visual effects.
“There’s a ton of sound cues, too, including Irving Berlin on the record player,” Tauber said.
A clairvoyant, comedic play
The play features a socialite-writer played by Barry Sears who invites a clairvoyant, Madame Arcati, to his house to conduct a séance, hoping to gather material for his next book. Rose Power, a stalwart Peninsula Players character actor, plays the eccentric medium, a role made famous in the 1945 movie version by Margaret Rutherford.
But that actress wasn’t the one Power had in mind when she began rehearsing.
“Angela Lansbury also played it and I originally thought I would be ‘channeling’ her but what came out was Carol Burnett,” she said. “But this is fun.”
The comedy happens when the spirit of the writer’s first wife, Elvira, is conjured up — but only he can see or hear her. Kiki Warner plays Elvira and Kathy Warnert plays his second wife, Ruth, who becomes puzzled by her husband’s odd behavior.
The play is a popular choice for theater groups, in part, because it offers four strong female characters. The fourth is the family housekeeper, played by Dixie Wood, who plays a key role in the mayhem, though to say more would spoil the plot.
Also in the cast are Patrick Buckley and Rachel Lake as a couple who are amused to be invited to the séance.
Buckley, who appeared in the troupe’s last three shows, doubles as assistant director for the first time.
“He has great ideas for the show and really helps me,” said Tauber, a former professional backstage designer who retired from California to the Long Beach Peninsula.
The troupe originally planned to stage the behind-the-scenes theater comedy “Noises Off,” but switched gears after too few attended the auditions.
Tauber chose the new script because he likes the work of Noel Coward and other British comedies and had directed Sears, Warnert, Power and Buckley in “Black Comedy,” in November.
The Players completed a run of the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta “HMS Pinafore” earlier this year.
Tauber said auditions will take place in August for radio plays, “Frankenstein” and “Dracula,” plus “Marionettes, Inc.” by Ray Bradbury, to be staged in September.
“We would like to get to the point where we are doing something monthly to give people a choice and some place to go,” he said.