Comedy and plot twists haunt NoCCA’s ‘Blithe Spirit’ production

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BRAWLEY — For its 21st season opening, the North County Coalition for the Arts (NoCCA) presented the play “Blithe Spirit” during a fundraising gala Friday evening at Stockmen’s Club of Imperial Valley in Brawley.

Written by English playwright Noël Coward, “Blithe Spirit” is used often in many theaters, according to the evening’s program. The play was performed by Imperial Valley actors and actresses who, for the entire two-hour performance, spoke with an English accent.

Rosemarie Wood was director and associate producer. “Everybody working on this production is local,” Wood said. “We have people from El Centro, Holtville, Imperial, some alumni from ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and some favorites such as Megan Strahm and JP Wells.” She said tickets for the first showing Friday were sold out.

Jay Kruger, president of North County Coalition for the Arts, said “People bought tickets and asked us to distribute them to people who would normally watch a play.”

Earlier in the program, Kruger expressed gratitude to NoCCA’s board of directors, volunteers, artists, and those involved with the production of “Blithe Spirit” as well as past projects.

He said the small production was performed by a cast of seven seasoned actors and actresses who produced twists and turns of laughter as the audience dined on steak and asparagus.

“Blithe Spirit” is a comedy about Charles Condomine, played by Manny Alexis, who marries Ruth Condomine (Analia Sotelo) after the death of his first wife, Elvira Condomine (Ximena Torres). Madame Arcati (Charlene Tamayo), a happy Medium, summons up Elvira who appears as a ghost to haunt Mr. Condomine. Later, the second Mrs. Condomine dies in an accident and joins Elvira —thus the two blithe spirits— in the “other life” continue together to haunt Mr. Condomine.

Ximena Torres, who played the role of Elvira Condomine, said she was invited to audition and did a cold reading. “They loved it because I could do a British accent. They wanted me to be the ghost. I guess they saw something mischievous in me. Something, sort of sultry,” she said.

Torres said she believes more classic plays are needed in the Imperial Valley. “We don’t really get to see a lot of plays,” she said.

“I think it was very entertaining,” said Maria Aguilera, vice-president of the board of directors of Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District. “And very out of reality, which makes it the more entertaining. And NoCCA does a wonderful job.”

Meanwhile, according to Kruger, the North County Coalition for the Arts is acting as the Arts Council for the entire Imperial Valley. “When we get finished with this production (Blithe Spirit),” Kruger said, “we’re going to jump right into helping the Imperial Valley Film Commission with their film festival. Then, when other things will come up throughout the year, we will assist different entities in the Valley with their arts programs.”

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