The following was written by Director of Marketing and Communications Janet Magleby, after sitting in on rehearsals this week. Stay tuned for weekly dispatches from the room!
Anthony Fusco as Charles, Jessica Kitchens as Elvira, and René Augesen as Ruth; photo by Kevin Berne.
As the Blithe Spirit rehearsal picks up after a ten-minute break in the Cal Shakes rehearsal hall, Stage Manager Corrie Bennett announces, “and we’re back.” Rebekah Brockman, playing Edith the maid, practices walking and balancing a silver tea set on a tray. “Let’s start with page 77 and the doorbell,” says Director Mark Rucker. Composer/Sound Designer Will McCandless presses the magic button and the doorbell announces Madam Arcati (Domenique Lozano). She has come to visit Ruth Condomine*, at her request. René Augesen (Ruth) answers the door, invites her in, and instantly offers her some tea.
Ruth: “Would you like some tea, Madame Arcati?”
Madame Aracti: “Chinese or Indian? I never touch Indian—it upsets my vibrations.”
Ruth confirms it’s Chinese.
Madame Arcati:”What is in these sandwiches?”
Madame Arcati: “Couldn’t be better!” (She helps herself to one.)
This is when I knew that I’d better eat at the café at the Bruns before I sit down to enjoy this production … all this talk about food is definitely going to make me hungry!
Ruth then begins to describe what has happened to her husband and her home since the recent séance. Madame Arcati is thrilled when she realizes that she has accomplished something extraordinary, but apologizes to Ruth and asks how she can help.
Ruth: By zipping her (Elvira) back to wherever she came from!”
Blithe Spirit runs Aug 8-Sep 2, 2012 at Cal Shakes.
When Ruth insists that she go into a trance or “something” and take care of the ghostly issue at hand, Madame Arcati says it takes several days to prepare and she even has to watch what she eats. She then says, “I had Pigeon Pie yesterday.”
Q: What is Pigeon Pie?
A: Recipe here.
After Ruth infuriates and insults Madame Arcati, the medium she leaves in a huff, exclaiming, “You can stew in your own juice!” (For those of you playing at home, that’s food/drink reference number four.) Then, Elvira (Jessica Kitchens—yes, I realize the coincidence here) and Charles (Anthony Fusco) enter. Elvira announces that she’d like a cucumber sandwich, too … alas, she can’t eat in her ethereal state.
Ruth is visiting with Mrs. Bradman. Ruth offers Mrs. Bradman a cocktail: “Sherry, perhaps?” Dr. Bradman enters and Ruth offers him Sherry, too. Director Rucker makes several blocking adjustments to assure that they are bringing the action downstage. But for the most part he lets the scene run completely through, without stopping. I am stunned at how well the actors already know their lines and places. The emotion that René employs in playing Ruth is astounding.
A Few Glossary Words from Scene Three:
Fortnight: 14 nights or two weeks
Dotty: mentally unbalanced, crazy
Corrie announces we’re going back to page 92. Elvira and Charles start again with the line…”Oh, let her go, Charles,” referring to Ruth storming out of the room announcing she’ll have “dinner on a tray.” Anthony wonders how his character will pick up his cocktail with his injured arm.
Then a slight interruption as Cal Shakes’ Artistic Director Jonathan Moscone, who has just returned from Italy, unexpectedly drops in. Instant hugs and kisses all around. He is thrilled with the look of the furniture and wondered where we got it. Jon starts noshing on some of the snacks on the actors’ table (he knows the importance of a nice snack) and then is was off as quick as he came.
Everyone goes back to work … page 100. I’m headin’ to dinner.
Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit, directed by Mark Rucker, plays Aug 8-Sep 2, 2012 at Cal Shakes’ stunning outdoor Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda, CA. Get your tickets today!
*Dialect Coach Lynn Soffer has decided that the Condomines’ last name will be pronounced “Condo Mean.”