Apple Hill director says ‘Blithe Spirit’ is haunting good time | TribLIVE.com
Theater & Arts

Apple Hill director says ‘Blithe Spirit’ is haunting good time

Candy Williams
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Matt Mlynarski
Rehearsing a scene from “Blithe Spirit” at Apple Hill Playhouse are (from left) Wes Paul, Stephen Toth, Brianna Downs, Pamela Farneth, Rebecca Hukill and Renee Kern.

A classic Noel Coward comedy will close out a busy summer season at Apple Hill Playhouse in Delmont.

Matt Mlynarski of Lower Burrell is directing eight performances of “Blithe Spirit,” about a séance gone bad that brings back two of novelist Charles Condomine’s deceased ex-wives to haunt him.

Stephen Toth of Penn Hills portrays the novelist who enjoys his quiet country life but is somewhat of an “intellectual snob” that tends to look down on people he sees as inferior.

“This is one of the reasons he gets along with his current wife, Ruth, who he sees as an intellectual equal,” Toth says. “This is the biggest challenge playing him. He’s pretty much a walking thesaurus.”

The actor says that, above all else, “Blithe Spirit” is entertaining, funny and extremely theatrical.

“And while it’s a little chatty, it moves with great flow,” he says. “Besides, the themes that Coward used in 1941 still apply today: jealousy, regret, insecurities and a fascination with the supernatural. But overall, it’s a light-hearted comedy that people seem to enjoy.”

Brianna Downs of Delmont says her role of Elvira is very challenging.

“She passed over in the 1930s and appears as a conjured ghost from a séance and firmly believes her former husband called her back from the dead. She moves effervescently and speaks deliberately and coyly while trying to disrupt her former husband’s current marriage and life. She is silly, smart and sexy – for a ghost,” Downs says.

She credits Mlynarski for helping to guide the cast in developing their characters “and finding those moments that will leave audiences entertained and frightened.”

The director enjoys Coward’s writing style and witty commentary, noting that the playwright’s jokes stand the test of time and his comedy is relatable.

“And who doesn’t love a ghost story?” he asks. “Audiences will definitely walk away laughing about marriage and misery, which in this play go hand in hand.”

Mlynarski also directed “Steel Magnolias” for Apple Hill as well as “Heathers: The Musical” and “Big Fish” for The Theatre Factory in Trafford. He also acted in Apple Hill’s production of “Moonlight and Magnolias.”

“This show is just fun,” says Rebekah Hukill of Pittsburgh, who plays Ruth in “Blithe Spirit.”

“I think it’s a very easy one to invite people to. Madame Arcati, the crazy medium, is the most colorful and comedic character as a selling point, but the basic premise of the plot – dead wife comes back to haunt husband and new wife – is enough to pique interest.”

Hukill is appearing in her first play at Apple Hill and recently performed in “Mom’s Gift” at South Park Theatre. She also was in Throughline Theatre’s “The Inspector General” and has worked with other theater companies in the Pittsburgh area.

Downs’ credits include “The Savannah Sipping Society” for Apple Hill and “Boeing Boeing” at Little Lake Theatre.

Toth acted in Apple Hill’s production of “Funny Money” and directed “Rumors” and performed in South Park Theatre’s “Morning’s at Seven.” He currently is seen in the Pittsburgh New Works Festival as Doug in F.J. Hartland’s “Like Mom Used to Say.”

“This is one of the more talented casts I have worked with,” he says of “Blithe Spirit.” “Each person is cast perfectly into their roles. I think it will definitely be one of the most entertaining shows of Apple Hill’s season.”

Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

Categories: AandE | Theater Arts
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