For Eileen Schuyler, playing Madame Arcati in Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit” this month at Capital Repertory Theatre, is about as perfect a role as any actress could hope for. And Schuyler, her co-stars will tell you, is perfect for the part.
“Madam Arcati is an iconic role in the 20th theatrical canon, and was last played on Broadway by none other than Angela Lansbury,” said Yvonne Perry, who plays Elvira in the Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill directed production opening Friday and running through May 6. “It’s fortuitous that an actress as perfect for the part as Eileen Schuyler was available for our production, and the fact that she lives locally makes it all the more special. You quite literally cannot do this play without a good Madame Arcati, and Eileen is not to be missed. She is delightful.”
Brenny Rabine, who plays Ruth, agrees.
“She tickles me pink as Madame Arcati,” said Rabine. “I’m awestruck by her energy, intelligence and creative specificity. Eileen directed me twice at Theatre Voices years ago, and she and Joe, her late husband, were always inspiring and supportive friends and colleagues.”
Schuyler, a Delmar native and Bethlehem Central graduate, has long been one of the Capital Region’s top actresses and continues to serve as artistic director for Theatre Voices, an Albany-based troupe that does stage readings. She took off some time in 2015 when she lost her husband, Joe, a well-known area photographer, but she’s happy to immerse herself back into the theater world, especially in this production.
“Playing this role in ‘Blithe Spirit’ is a bucket list kind of role,” said Schuyler, who graduated with a degree in English from Suffolk University in Boston and has served on the adjunct faculty at the University at Albany. “It’s a fantastic, wonderful Coward comedy, and playing Madame Arcati should be on every actor’s list. The role is so rich and fun, and I’m having a great time.”
Adding to the enjoyment is the fact that Schuyler is sharing the stage with Perry and Rabine, like Schuyler, two long-time members of Actors Equity Association. It is the first time that all three women are on the stage together.
“I know them very well and they are my friends,” Schuyler said of Perry and Rabine. “We’ve collaborated on things before, but I haven’t really been on stage that much with them. This role is so rich, and I really understand the experience of this woman I’m playing, and doing it with them just adds to it. They are professionals, we believe in unions and Equity is very important to us.”
Coward wrote “Blithe Spirit” in 1941 for the British people to give them a couple hours of light-hearted entertainment during the early days of World War II.
Perry’s Elvira is a ghost that’s been dead for seven years but returns to haunt her husband, Charles, played by Broadway veteran Gary Lindemann. When Charles hires Madame Arcati to conduct a seance in his home, all hell breaks loose. Ruth, played by Rabine, is Charles’ current wife
“It’s a quintessential English comedy that Coward wrote while the blitz was happening,” said Schuyler. “He wanted to write something to cheer people up, so he comes up with this story of a writer who hires the Madame to have a seance so he can learn some of the tricks of the trade for a story he’s working on. During the course of the seance his first wife returns and there are a series of events that are just a barrel of laughs. Wilde was so clever, so witty.”
Tickets for this production sold so quickly that Mancinelli-Cahill decided to add an extra week and have it run a full four weeks. She’s excited to be working with three of the Capital Region’s best and most well-known actors, and having Schuyler in the cast is a real treat.
“If there’s a better Madame Arcati in the world, I don’t know her,” Mancinelli-Cahill said of Schuyler. “Eileen just attacks the part, which is one of the indelible characters in the modern canon. She unleashes havoc in such a delightful way.”
Also in the cast is another Equity member from the Capital Region, former New York State Theatre Institute stalwart John Romeo, who plays Dr. Badman.
While one classic play is being produced at Capital Rep, another old chestnut will take the stage at Curtain Call Theatre in Latham. “Arsenic and Old Lace,” written by Joseph Kesselring in 1939, is being directed by Cindy Bates and stars Carol Charniga and Robin Leary as the two Brewster sisters.
The play was turned into a popular film by Frank Capra in 1944, starring Cary Grant as Mortimore Brewster, the sisters’ nephew. Matthew Reddick, who recently played an Elvis impersonator turned drag-queen in “The Legend of Georgia McBride” at Curtain Call, plays Mortimore.
Also in the cast are Howie Shaffer and Steve Leifer.
WHERE: Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 North Pearl, Albany
WHEN: Previews are Friday through Sunday; the play opens Tuesday and runs through May 6; performances are at 7:30 p.m.Tuesday through Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; a matinee will also be held on Wednesday, April 18
HOW MUCH: $62.50-$20
MORE INFO: (518) 346-6204
‘Arsenic and Old Lace’
WHERE: Curtain Call Theatre, 1 Jeanne Jugan Lane, Latham
WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through May 5; performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $25
MORE INFO: (518) 877-7529 or visit www.curtaincalltheatre.com
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