Sunday, October 24, 2010

review - Bell, Book and Candle

CRITIC'S PICK
Bell, Book and Candle
by John van Druten
directed by Richard Israel
Colony Theatre
through November 21

To be frank, John van Druten's works, which include I Am a Camera and The Voice of the Turtle, as well as Bell, Book and Candle, may be considered dated, because sadly plays are no longer written with such style and wit. And who dotes on love and just being human in the 21st century? There's no time; it's unheard of! The Colony Theatre in Burbank proudly presents van Druten's amusing and cherished play about witchcraft, that may very well have inspired TV's Bewitched, with a delightful cast under Richard Israel's nourishing direction.

Once you accept the fact that Gillian (Willow Geer) is a witch, who is out to get what she wants to the perilous consequences of others, and that her entire family, including brother Nicky (Will Bradley) and Aunt Queenie (Mary Jo Catlett) have magical powers, you're hooked. There's also a handsome neighbor, Shepherd Henderson (Michael A. Newcomer) that Gillian wants - especially when she learns that her despicable former college roommate is engaged to him, and an enchanting author Sidney Redlitch (Benton Jennings) who, through a spell, comes into and touches all of their lives. It's great fun!

Geer as Gillian is a gem of an actress. She plays the alluring, conniving element divinely and beautifully manages to convey the humanity that suddenly consumes her. Newcomer is attractive, appealing and completely likeable as Henderson. Bradley does well underplaying Nicky - a difficult rather nondescript role that an actor could easily push for laughs as did Jack Lemmon in the film. Bradley makes him his own without going over the top. Catlett is sheer delight as Aunt Queenie, adding touches of eccentricity here and there, but , like Bradley, keeping her within control. Jennings makes his few scenes as Redlitch memorable by playing an unpredictable oddball.

Stephen Gifford has designed a classy 50s New York apartment and Sharon McGunigle's period costumes are effectively colorful, especially Gillian's satiny dresses and Queenie's spiritualist-like headgear, caftans and wraps.

With indifference and selfish isolation rampant in our contemporary world, Bell, Book and Candle is a gentle and graceful reminder of how much we need to open up and be human. Plus, it's the perfect holiday treat!

5 out of 5 stars



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