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Gresham High to stage ghostly Coward classic

'Blithe Spirit' runs April 28 to May 1

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - From left, Marlo Phillips plays the ghost of Elvira Condomine, Connor Hughes plays Charles Condomine, and Riley Olson plays Ruth Condomine in Gresham High School's production of 'Blithe Spirit,' the famous Noel Coward comedy. Riley Olson is in the process of self-discovery.

“I’ve been discovering just how loud I can go,” she says with a chuckle.

Olson is a senior at Gresham High School, which will stage Noel Coward’s famous 1941 comedic play “Blithe Spirit” from April 28 to May 1.

Olson, 17, plays the level-headed Ruth Condomine, wife of socialite and novelist Charles Condomine, who invites an eccentric medium and clairvoyant, Madame Arcati, to his house to conduct a séance, hoping to gather material for a new book. However, the ghost of his temperamental first wife, Elvira, shows up and attempts to disrupt Charles’ marriage.

At one point, her heretofore relatively “normal” character descends into hysterics.

“I just sort of dove right into it,” Olson says, noting the play’s director encouraged her to scream as loudly as possible, which the young actor feels she is now doing. Olson adds she thinks today’s audiences will enjoy the play, even though it’s been around for more than seven decades.

Coward adapted the play for a film in 1945, starring Rex Harrison, and directed a musical adaptation, “High Spirits,” on Broadway in 1964. It has also been adapted for television and radio productions over the years, and has enjoyed several revivals.

“I think the circumstance is as funny if it was set in 1941 or 2001,” Olson says. “If it’s not relatable, it’s (still) understandable.”

Till death do you part

Gresham senior Marlo Phillips plays Elvira, the ghost of Charles’ partying, annoying ex-wife, who died seven years prior to her appearance. Phillips, 17, describes Elvira as a “very sassy, witty ghost who causes a lot a chaos throughout the play.” Only Charles can see Elvira, which leads to all kinds of complications, especially given Charles is not Husband-of-the-Year material.

“He doesn’t have great history of relationships with his dead wife or his alive one,” Phillips says.

Vashti Wix, also a Gresham senior, plays Madame Arcati, the medium who sets the madness in motion. Arcati doesn’t know how to send a ghost back to the netherworld, which creates “a lot of trouble,” for everyone involved.

“I think the funnest part is that she is so crazy and has so many great lines and opportunities to act crazy on stage,” says Wix.

The 17 year old believes the portrayal of her character will reach its potential when Wix gets to share her with live theater-goers.

“Once I get on stage I feed off the audience and their laughter, and it gets a little easier,” Wix says.

Audiences should enjoy the play because “it’s a classic,” a notion seconded by the other actors.

“It will definitely give people chuckles,” Phillips says. “It’s a sarcastic, witty comedy.”

“I think it’s just really different and fun.”