By Richard Pacheco
By Richard Pacheco
The 2nd Story Production of the classic John Van Druten play, “Bell, Book and Candle” is refreshing, spirited and well acted. Onstage attempts at efforts which involve magic can go badly awry, but not here. The Broadway play was turned into a film with Kim Novak and James Stewart and on Broadway with Rex Harrison and Lilli Palmer in the lead roles.
The three act play is set in the fifties and encompasses the efforts of a witch to cast a spell on one of her tenants around Christmas. She finds him attractive, but that is more or less pedestrian until she learns from her Aunt Queenie, also a witch, that the publisher, Shepard Henderson, is engaged to her old college nemesis. That is all Gillian needs to shift into high gear to break up the engagement and exact her revenge for past wrongs. She rushes in with cat and conjuring to make it all come about. Yet she still wants to keep the truth about her being a witch from her new boyfriend despite the efforts of her aunt and brother Nicky to clue him in somewhat subtlety.
Valerie Westgate is Gillian, the witch with a desire for love – even if it means the possibility of losing her powers. She is a sheer delight, and watching her transform from disinterested and mildly concerned about her attraction to Shep to nearly being obsessed with him when she learns he is the fiancé of her hated college rival is mischievous fun. She is poised and dazzling as she delivers one liners with well-aimed perfection and consistency. When she discovers her family and a writer researching witchcraft for a new book are gong to reveal her to Shep, she shines.
David Nando Rodgers is Shepard Henderson, a man caught up in things he doesn’t understand and beyond his control. He delivers a deft mixture of bumbling innocent and unsuspecting dupe with finesse and comic excellence.
Then there is Auntie Queenie, played with flair and aplomb by Isabel O’Donnell. She is well intentioned but somewhat inept as a witch. She is lovable and endearing.
There is also Nicky, Gillian’s meddling brother. He oozes self-confidence and flair, and cuts a dashing figure. He has a flamboyant flair that is entertaining. Chalres La Frond is excelelnt, the perfect mixture of sass and irreverence.
Finally there is the witchcraft book writer, Sidney Redlitch, who has her own somewhat wrong ideas about witchcraft from information fed to her to cover up the witches’ antics. She finds herself gliding from an arrogant know it all to someone in awe and fear in the face of real witchcraft, trembling and in serious doubt. Susan Bowen Powers handles it with skill and sincerity.
This is all brought vividly and entertainingly together with the able direction and sure hand of Mark Peckham. He evokes such as definite and elegant rapport from his cast. This is a real classic comedy that sparkles vividly to life with a terrific cast and great direction. Jullian Eddy’s scenic design is apt and excellent for the in the round space.
Through Sept. 3 at 2nd Story Theatre at 28 Market St. in Warren. Tickets are $20 to $40. For more information, go to www.2ndstorytheatre.com or call (401) 247-4200.