Bell, Book and Candle
By Roz Friedman
Long Wharf’s Bell, Book & Candle is a froth of delight. This classy production seems effortless, but it is directed by Darko Tresnjak, the new Artistic Director of Hartford Stage, with precise attention to detail and a great respect for the time in which it takes place: Manhattan in the early 1950’s. If you remember the film with Jack Lemmon and Kim Novak, you will love this as much. If you have never seen this before, you are in for a big treat! Please get there before it closes on April 1.
John Van Druten was a real romantic and he knew how to write a play. Yes, even the three acts seem to fly by, possibly because of the charming cast. Kate Maccluagge is a sublime sylph as Gilliam Holroyd, the talented witch with a gifted black cat, who falls for Shepherd Henderson, her tenant. “Shep” is a publisher, who is engaged to be married to an old college friend of Gilliam’s—a friend she never liked. This provides the impetus for Gilliam to work her magic on this innocent man, and she does so aided and abetted by her Aunt Queenie, the entertaining Ruth Williamson, who plays the character part perfectly, and Gilliam’s brother, Nicky, a flighty Michael Keyloun. Helping in the fun is a writer, the touped Sidney Redlitch (Gregor Paslawsky), who writes books about witches and warlocks and employs Nicky as his expert.
Robert Eli is a wining Shepherd Henderson. A big man, he moves gracefully like a dancer on an all red set designed with platforms and ledges by Alexander Dodge, lit mysteriously by Matthew Richards. Dodge and Richards conspire with Sound Designer Lindsay Jones to make things move and twinkle and howl. The music, all those marvelous ballads by singers like Rosemarie Clooney, provides a wonderful backdrop for Gillian and Shep’s love affair, in which Shep is totally obsessed with this lovely girl. Of course, he does not know she is a witch and when she tells him, the party is over—at least for awhile.
Adding beauty to the piece are Fabio Toblini’s magnificently constructed costumes. Those were the days. Bell, Book & Candle, playing only April 1 at Long Wharf.
This review originally aired on WMNR 88.1FM FINE ARTS PUBLIC RADIO