January 31, 2013
Bell, Book and Candle’ unveils magical cast
Witty humor proves successful
By Daniel Herda
The Cleveland Playhouse Square is hosting Director Michael Bloom’s live version of the play “Bell, Book and Candle” by John Van Druten, from Jan. 11 to Feb. 3 at the Allen Theatre.
Druten’s success started in New York, 1943, when he released “The Voice of the Turtle,” which ran for more than three seasons.
His play “Bell, Book and Candle” was originally performed at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in New York, from 1950-1951, featuring 233 shows that made the story a hit and inspired a feature film in 1958 starring James Stuart.
Bloom keeps Druten’s story alive with help of the Cleveland Playhouse Square, an organized production staff and a talented cast.
Gillian Holroyd, played by Georgia Cohen, is a young witch who lives alone with her cat, Pyewacket, and has been unlucky in the fields of romance. Her life changes when a gentleman named Shepherd Henderson, played by Eric Martin Brown, moves into the apartment upstairs and attracts her attention.
“Eric is lovely, Michael did a nice job of casting people who wanted to show up everyday and work well together,” said Cohen.
The set design of Gillian’s apartment presented a combination of witchcraft and Christmas that blended well. The walls and doors were painted midnight blue, with a red velvet carpet covering the floor and a black and white couch sitting atop.
African masks hung on the walls, giving the apartment an ancient presence while a silver Christmas tree was on stage left, lightly decorated in maroon ornaments.
The lamps in the apartment had a dim romantic glow, balancing the stage between shadows and light, and the chemistry of the two main characters was blended perfectly with their dialogue.
“Once you learn the words you have a level of ease with your partner that is ideal, and Eric and I were lucky,” Cohen said.
Cohen’s lead performance was the highlight of the show, brought to life with the help of her co-star, Eric Martin Brown, who slowly unfolds the curtain into Gillian’s magical world with his curiosity and disbelief.
“We’re playing human emotions, love, fear, hate, jealousy, and those are universal, I add those elements together and discover who this person is first,” said Brown.
Shep presents the persona of a ‘50s New York businessman with his long violet winter coat, brown fedora, blonde hair slicked back and briefcase in hands, while Gillian grants a classy lady-like feel, wearing a lime green sparkling gown under a thick fur coat.
The transitions between scenes were mystifying, with the supporting actors wearing Mardi Gras masks and dancing mischievously to Peter Gunn music.
Patricia Kilgarriff plays Gillian’s aunt, Miss Holroyd, with witty devious humor and Jeremy Webb’s performance of Gillian’s brother, Nicky, was intense and theatric.
Marc Mortiz’s portrayal of author Sidney Redlitch was wonderfully neurotic and reflected a man relentlessly pursuing an idea.
Brown spoke about the early stages of Bloom’s production and how strangers form an intimate trusting bond in a three- and-a-half-week period.
“It’s a leap of faith — we don’t practice with a guitar, or a paintbrush, we have to know ourselves, who we are and what we want,” said Brown.
Visit www.playhousesquare.org for ticket prices, show time information and other events hosted by the theatre.