Audiences might be surprised with what the Stage Company will conjure up this weekend at the Varsity Theater.
The company, which celebrates its 31st anniversary this year, will open Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit” Friday.
The comedy follows Charles Condomine, a novelist who invites an eccentric psychic into his home to conduct research for his latest book. However, the psychic begins to bring back ghosts from Charles’ past he would rather forget. But “Spirit” director and SIU professor emeritus Christian Moe said he wanted to keep the ensuing action a secret.
Moe said the play was often performed during WWII to keep the troops’ spirits high.
“(‘Spirit’) has always had a tradition of being a play that would lift people’s spirits, and I hope that is still (the reason for) its existence,” he said. “It’s been a favorite with regional theaters and professional theaters for a long time.”
Moe said “Spirit” is the first Noel Coward production the Stage Company has performed.
“I think it’s time for Carbondale audiences to get acquainted with (Coward),” he said.
Moe produced Coward’s “Hay Fever” while he was at SIU, he said, and the play familiarized him with Coward’s work. A Coward play often involves witty one-liners and cynical-bent social comedy, he said.
“The repartee is great, I think,” he said. “It’s up to the audience to decide. I think they’ll be amused by it.”
Moe said the company’s cross relationship with SIU has been beneficial. The university provided the production with several furniture pieces, including a couch and a record cabinet, he said, and retired SIU professor Loren Cocking was the show’s set designer. In order to provide SIU with greater arts accessibility, “Spirit” will hold a student discount show Dec. 9. Student tickets will be $5, half the regular student cost, he said.
“It’s very difficult to get people, particularly from the university, to come and see plays,” he said. “I always think ‘good theater promotes good theater.’ If people like it, they will check out other theater.”
SIU has a rich theater alumi history, he said. Former student Joseph Robinette wrote the book for “A Christmas Story-The Musical,” which began Broadway performances in November.
Sarah Dubach, Stage Company public relations coordinator, said she is excited about the cast members’ performances.
“The mix of the cast we have seems really dynamic,” she said. “I think it’s going to be really funny, and from the little bit I’ve seen, the cast has excellent chemistry, so I’m really excited about that.”
Emily Thompson, a senior from Rock Falls studying theater, plays the housemaid Edith.
“(Edith) is really funny and crazy, and she’s ex-military,” Thompson said. “A lot of her comedy is physical comedy.”
“Spirit” is Thompson’s first Stage Company experience, and she said she is grateful to be able to work with the cast members.
Thompson said she enjoys the show’s end scene, when all is revealed.
“All of the actors are out on stage, so it’s really fun to work with everyone all at once for the ending scene,” she said.
Carbondale resident Darcy Kriegsman plays Elvira, a character who the psychic summons.
“(Elvira) wreaks a little playful havoc throughout the show and has a lot of naughty fun,” Kriegsman said.
The Stage Company will perform “Spirit” Friday, Saturday and Sunday, as well as Dec. 14-16. Friday and Saturday shows will take place at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday shows will be held at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 each and $10 for students. Student tickets for the Sunday, Dec. 9 performance are $5 each.