Benicia Theatre Group’s Blithe Spirit

Get ready to laugh during the Benicia Theatre Group’s spring 2024 production of Blithe Spirit.

Photos by Michael Van Auken

The Benicia Theatre Group likes to stick with a cadence of putting on a drama production in the fall and a comedy production in the spring. They wrapped up the thriller DEATHTRAP, which focused on a washed-up playwright, last year; it was a huge hit.

“It was fabulous and well-received,” says Brian Hough, Benicia Theatre Group’s board president.” We had a great audience that showed up and showed support for us. Everyone had very positive feedback on it; it was a great show, and we were really proud of the production.”

True to form, Hough and team are now setting their sights on something that will bring a little humor to playgoers.

The Benicia Theatre Group had yet to select its four main cast members and three supporting cast members at the time this article was written (the Benicia Theatre Group always selects production sizes that will fit their small yet mighty stage), but we do know that the Assistant Director will be Matt Goff with uber-experienced Director Clinton Vidal at the helm.

“Clinton has been with the Benicia Theatre Group for over a decade,” says Hough. “He’s an awesome person. I’ve done many shows with him and was even an actor under him. He’s an award winning, very accredited director.”

Blithe Spirit was originally the brainchild of English playwright Noel Coward in 1941 and has had many various adaptations throughout the years. Coward wanted to bring some comedic relief—an escape from reality, if you will—from what was going on in history during this time period. The play was incredibly well-received, setting a new record for runs in London with 1,997 performances. In the present day, you may have even seen the 2020 screen adaptation starring names such as Dan Stevens, Leslie Mann, and Isla Fisher. 

Hough never wants to give too much of their production’s story line details away as it’s ideal for audience members to be surprised (it’s always enticing to hold a bit of mystery until you’re experiencing something unfold live, right?), but I did get some basic snippets that we can look forward to seeing.

Brian Hough profile as he watches rehearsal

“The play is a comedy and a farce with three acts,” says Hough.

“It’s basically about a novelist socialite [Charles Condomine] that invites an eccentric medium and clairvoyant [Madame Arcati] to his house. The novelist conducts a seance with the hope of gathering material for his new book, but it backfires and the ghost of his ex wife’s past [Elvira] haunts him. I don’t wanna give it away, but with reading the script so far, I really feel sorry for Charles. Elvira is there to—you know—keep him on his toes. It’s truly going to be a fun play.”

Hough is also pumped about other production visuals and details aside from the script—and they’re getting noticed for such elements.

“We’re looking forward to the Arty Awards,” says Hough.

“I noticed our previous set design from DEATHTRAP is on their page. The Artys were down for a couple years during Covid, but now they’re back up and running. They recognize achievements in performing arts in Solano County. I can’t wait for the special effects that are going to go on in Blithe Spirit, and I’m looking forward to co-designing the set. I’m really excited about it.”

Benicia Theatre Group actors on stage rehearsing with their backs to the camera while the camera looks out at downstage and the house

Between Benicia Theatre Group’s opening night on Friday, April 19th, and their closing production on Sunday, May 12th, there will be a total of 12 chances to catch Blithe Spirit at the Historic B.D.E.S Hall.

“It’s a little longer than some productions have been—about 2 hours and 20 minutes,” says Hough. The script is 140 pages compared to the last one for DEATHTRAP at 106.”

Hough also wants to leave patrons attending Blithe Spirit—or those attending any show—a friendly reminder that the theatre tickets aren’t assigned and operate on a first-come, first served seating basis.

“Definitely show up early to get good seats,” he says.

“Sometimes people show up five minutes before and get stuck sitting in the back. Unless you have a party of five or over, which we will try to reserve seats together for, it’s general seating.

To purchase tickets, which are $26 for general pricing and $24 for students and seniors, visit beniciatheatregroup.org.