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A Ghost of a Chance

The cast of Blithe Spirit, played by Nicholas Kory (around the table from left), Kryston Wisely, Bri Keran, Barb McColgan, Kevin Yaeger and Brianna Engels, surround a table while holding a séance as they inadvertantly summon the titular spirit played by Nicole Rothleutner. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch)

In Noel Coward's classic improbable farce, the character of Charles seemingly has it all. He's a successful novelist, comfortably married again after losing his sensuous, impetuous first wife to a sudden illness. He has friends, money, position - what more could he ask for?

What he unknowingly asks for, and receives, is the return of the ghost of wife No. 1, who is intent on causing trouble for Charles with wife No. 2, all following a séance he intended as research for his next book. And so the comic turns begin in "Blithe Spirit," the summer theatre offering of Central Lakes College (CLC) Theatre, playing July 10-12 and 17-19 in the Chalberg Theatre on the Brainerd campus. All performances are at 7:30 p.m.

Hailed as Coward's comic masterpiece, the play was written in a six-day period in 1941 at the height of the blitz in London. In the midst of carnage and daily tragedy, Coward chose to write a play about death and the afterlife. His genius was in crafting a story that treats mortality with a frivolity that makes the subject matter less wearing.

"Blithe Spirit" follows Charles Condomine, novelist, as he tries to negotiate the tricky waters of having two wives living under the same roof, even though one of them is a spirit only he can see and hear. His living wife, Ruth, thinks him either insane or a drunk for his erratic behavior of talking to unseen parties, making odd non sequitur comments, and flying into fits of emotion for no apparent reason.

The cause of Charles' troubles is Elvira, his first wife, who died young and is now back in his life in a ghostly form. Elvira was a handful when she was alive. Now that she's dead, she's even freer to cause mischief, which she does with unbridled glee.

The reason for Elvira's presence is clairvoyant medium Madame Arcati, a somewhat dotty woman who loves pigeon pie and cucumber sandwiches, and has the power to conjure up spirits from the beyond. The only problem is, she hasn't a clue how to undo what she's done. Her increasingly wild attempts to correct the situation she's created make for great hilarity.

In the CLC production, Charles is portrayed by Kevin Yeager. Yeager's most recent appearances at CLC include the roles of John Barrymore in "I Hate Hamlet," Sir Charles Warren in "Jack the Ripper," Tom in "The Glass Menagerie" and Otto Frank in "The Diary of Anne Frank."

Bri Keran plays living wife Ruth. Her most recent roles include Fairy Godmother Streptococcus in "The (Almost) Totally True Story of Hansel and Gretel," Martha Truitt in "The Rimers of Eldritch" and Ernestine in "Jack the Ripper."

The role of ghostly wife Elvira is played by Nicole Rothleutner. She has been seen most recently as Sergeant Ringworm in 'Hansel and Gretel', Mavis Johnson in 'The Rimers of Eldritch', and Polly in 'Jack the Ripper'.

Barb McColgan plays the role of Madame Arcati, the eccentric medium. McColgan most recently delighted audiences as the harridan wife Domina in the musical "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum'" and previously appeared in "The Producers," "Harvey" and "To Kill a Mockingbird."

The role of Dr. Bradman, friend of the Condomines and natural skeptic, is played by Nicholas Kory. His most recent roles on the CLC stage include Walter in "The Rimers of Eldritch" and another doctor, Forbes Winslow, in "Jack the Ripper."

Dr. Bradman's wife Violet is played by Brianna Engels, whose most recent role was that of Nelly Windrod in "The Rimers of Eldritch." The Condomines' somewhat green and generally awkward servant, Edith, is played by Kryston Wiseley, making her CLC Summer Theatre debut.

"Blithe Spirit" is directed by Patrick Spradlin; Dawn Marks is the costume designer; set designer is Tim Leagjeld; lighting designer is Gary Hirsch; and technical direction, Dwayna Paplow; and production stage manager, Kerry Townsend.

Tickets are available from the CLC Theatre Box Office at 855-8199 or online at

Tickets are $13 for adults, $10 for youths 16 and under and $7 for CLC students, with general admission seating.​