Middle-aged white woman in long shawl, hands outstretched and looking off to the left of the photo.
Jan Slavin as Madame Arcati in Eclectic Full Contact Theatre's Blithe Spirit Credit: Lena Aubrey

Noel Coward’s 1941 comedy about a socialite writer who finds himself haunted by his vivacious (if annoying) dead wife—while his living wife first questions his sanity, then finds herself in competition with the ghost—has inspired a host of revivals and homages. Consider Robyn Hitchcock’s 1985 song “My Wife and My Dead Wife,” and the criminally hard-to-find 1990 film Truly, Madly, Deeply, starring Alan Rickman and Juliet Stevenson as a dead cellist and his grieving partner.

Blithe Spirit
Through 6/26: Fri-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 2 PM; Skokie Theatre, 7924 Lincoln, Skokie, eclectic-theatre.com, $38 ($34 students/seniors).

Eclectic Full Contact’s revival of Blithe Spirit at the Skokie Theatre, directed by Michael Woods, is amusing enough, but it shies away from exploring the underlying acid in Coward’s premise: Is marriage itself a kind of living death? It’s not entirely the production’s fault. Coward himself said of his comedy, “There’s no heart in the play. If there was a heart, it would be a sad story.” So in place of heart, we get hijinks, and these are about two-thirds successful. Andrew Pond as haunted Charles Considine, Jessica Lauren Fisher as mischievous dead Elvira, and Jan Slavin as Madame Arcati, the eccentric medium who brings Elvira back into Charles’s life, are all suitably larger than life. But Maiko Terazawa’s Ruth, the even-tempered wife thrown into a tizzy by her dead predecessor’s return, takes a while to find her way into the Cowardian rhythms. Only when she too (spoiler alert!) becomes spectral does Ruth feel like a worthy opponent to Elvira.