Bulletin News

Comedy classic “Blithe Spirit” kicks off theater season 


Want a little fun and fright this October? Prefer a bit of poltergeist in your plays? Then SUNY Cortland’s Performing Arts Department has you covered with its first show of the semester, “Blithe Spirit,” at the Dowd Fine Arts Center Theatre. 

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 5, Friday, Oct. 6 and Saturday, Oct. 7, with a final matinee at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 8. Tickets are available at SUNY Cortland’s online Ticket Office. Discounted prices are offered to students, faculty, staff and senior citizens. Ages 13 and above will enjoy the show the most. 

Written by the late playwright Noël Coward, “Blithe Spirit” is a comedy that has kept audiences laughing for more than 70 years. First performed in 1941, it’s been revived on Broadway, London’s West End and for a 2014-15 national tour.  

The show tells a tale of spirits, seances and the novelist caught in the middle. In other words, it’s a hauntingly perfect performance for Halloween season. It’s also a favorite of director Kevin Halpin, professor in the Performing Arts Department, who first saw it while in high school. He noted this is the first time since he started teaching at Cortland in 1999 that a full-fledged farce has been performed at the university. 

“It’s a very, incredibly funny, funny play,” said Halpin. “Its premise is ridiculous at its core in a wonderful way, and the way that Noël Coward writes witty, sharp dialogue where people fire off at each other is very similar to the work of someone contemporary like Aaron Sorkin.” 

Blithe Spirit takes to the SUNY Cortland stage on Thursday, Oct. 5 through Sunday, Oct. 8.

A farce, Halpin said, is all about exuberance, with an overflow of physical comedy, speed, surprises and energy from the actors. Just as important is that the characters in the play must show they believe in what they’re doing, however off the wall it seems to an audience.  

Coward and “Blithe Spirit” represents a change of pace that is, Halpin believes, a perfect fit and challenge for the students. It lets them practice a different style of acting than other recent shows at SUNY Cortland like “Cabaret” or “Company” and it offers multiple quality roles for women. 

So far, the students involved are enjoying the chance to explore a sillier side of theater. 

“It’s been a great experience,” Halpin said. “The cast has jumped in with both feet with an incredible amount of energy and creativity. We’ve been laughing a lot in rehearsals, so hopefully audiences will too.” 

After the curtain falls on “Blithe Spirit,” expect to see more on stage at SUNY Cortland this fall and next year. Scheduled shows are: 

"Love, Billy," a new play in workshop and a co-production between SUNY Cortland Performing Arts and Cortland Repertory Theatre, by Mark Reynolds and Crystal Lyon, from Nov. 2-5 at Cortland Repertory Theatre Downtown. 

"The Last Five Years," a musical by Jason Robert Brown, spring semester dates TBD, in the Dowd Fine Arts Center Lab Theatre. 

"Sweet Charity," a play by Neil Simon with music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by Dorothy Fields from April 5-7 and 12-14 in the Dowd Fine Arts Center Theatre.