Like other World War II comedy hits, Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit (1940), written during the Blitz, fulfilled an unconscious therapeutic function: to domesticate the death and violence going on outside. Coward's amusing trifle blames it all on women's inherent deviousness or men's narcissistic complacency—you choose. Michael Blakemore's astute, faithful revival (Shubert Theater) gets most mileage from the droll performances of its three leading ladies, Jayne Atkinson, Christine Ebersole, and, especially, Angela Lansbury, whose dotty, Cockneyfied Madame Arcati is a deliciously fresh reading of a part often played over-heavily. What Blakemore's three divas could use is a show of more spirit from Rupert Everett: Carefully withholding all emotional display, possibly from fear of the competition, he underplays the work's central role almost to the point of disappearance.

Moral fatigue in the civil rights struggle: The Good Negro
Joan Marcus
Moral fatigue in the civil rights struggle: The Good Negro

Details

The Good Negro
By Tracey Scott Wilson
The Public Theater
425 Lafayette Street, 212-967-7555

Incident at Vichy
By Arthur Miller
Beckett Theatre, Theater Row
410 West 42nd Street, 212-279-4200

Blithe Spirit
By Noël Coward
Shubert Theater
225 West 44th Street, 212-239-6200

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