Blithe Spirit

Now playing at the Shubert Theatre on Broadway.

Few theater experiences are so alienating as the feeling that you and the rest of the audience are at odds. If the difference is slight, you can get caught up in the crowd, enjoying the production—or not—more than you otherwise would. But if the difference is more significant—they’re laughing, and you’re cringing; they’re sighing, and you’re sneering—the opposite tends to occur. The chasm grows larger as you become more self-conscious and resentful of the disconnect.

Or maybe that’s just me and my socially maladjusted family. My parents were visiting, and Mom wanted to see the new star-studded revival of Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit, which she first encountered back in a high school drama production when she was the understudy to Edith the maid. (Hee!) We all enjoyed the play—Mom, Dad, Sean, and me—to varying degrees, but honestly, Coward’s humor is wry: a classic dry, British wit, yes? It’s the sort of humor that makes you (and by you, I mean Mom, Dad, Sean, and me) grin and snicker, not howl and slap your leg and drown out the next five lines with your guffaws, so why in the world was the rest of the audience acting like we’d all been heavily dosed with nitrous oxide?