Legend on Stage: Angela Lansbury in “Blithe Spirit”

The thespian twinkles in the Noël Coward charmer.

We don't gussy up in tuxedos and taffeta for dinner nowadays -- probably just as well, with our go-go-go schedules -- and we don't exchange witty repartee as a matter of course. (Question: Is there any other sort of repartee aside from "witty"? Dull repartee doesn't have the same ring.)

But we do occasionally long for the smart-talking, tails-and-top-hatted world of Noël Coward, the playwright who best captured the screwballian swells who reigned supreme in the escape-seeking '20s and 1930s.

Reigned and deigned to have a few adventures of the occasional high-jinx-y sort.

Think ghost wives showing up to meddle and make trouble, as an example. Such is the engine of "Blithe Spirit," arguably one of Mr. Coward's most celebrated and oft-performed plays, a story so charming that thespians of any level of can-do can bring a great amount of gusto to the supernatural comedy.

Now imagine, with that in mind, Angela Lansbury filling the role of the play's flaboyant medium Madame Arcati. Are you pre-dazzled by the thought of a legend in a legendary role in a legendary play? Be pre-dazzled no longer: "Blithe Spirit," which stars the effervescent Ms. Lansbury, is summoning spirits, and spirited laughs, at The Ahmanson through the middle of January.

As tempted as we are to simply leave it at that, or type "Angela Lansbury" over and over thirty more times, a little head-spun and starstruck, such an act would not count as witty repartee, or witty anything, in the Noël Coward canon.  

So let us mention that Ms. Lansbury has performed Madame Arcati on the Broadway and West End stages, that Charles Edwards of "Downton Abbey" fame -- he's the rascal who spirits Lady Edith away to the continent, let us not forget -- plays writer Charles Codomine, and Jemima Rooper and Charlotte Parry zazzily assume the merry mantels of the former and current Mesdames Codomines, dead and alive.

"Zazzily" is a fine word for any go at witty repartee, yes? Well, good. We may live in times where tuxedos are more scarce, but being a little classy, when a Noël Coward play starring Angela Lansbury is in town, seems a very fine thing, indeed.

Now where's our corsage, sateen evening gloves, and crystal ball?

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