Sunday, December 16, 2018

Bell, Book & Candle—Bag & Baggage Productions—Hillsboro, OR


“Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered”

This sly comedy from the 50’s, is written by John Van Druten and directed by Scott Palmer (B&B’s Founding Artistic Director).
  It is playing at their space in The Vault Theatre, 350 E. Main St., in downtown Hillsboro, through December 23rd.  For more information, go to their site at www.bagnbaggage.org

The above song title pretty well summarizes the play’s plot, but only scratches the surface of the cauldron from which it emerges.
  The title of the play is a euphemism for the exorcism of demons and witches.  But, have no fear, this is not a horror story of the white (Wicca) or dark (Black Magic) arts, but a love story.  But the underlying whiff of this brew does speak of prejudice, as Van Druten was a gay author, in a world that shunned such folks.  And so, when seeing this, reflect on any kind of group that has been ostracized by our society because of color, religion, race, mental/physical challenges, gender and sextual preferences, et. al….and we still have a long road ahead of us on these issues.
If you see some similarities to a certain popular TV show back when, called “Bewitched,” they are from the same batter.
  In this incarnation, we have a somewhat lonely, young witch, Gillian (Jessi Walters), who, although able to summon just about anything, has never really felt…Love (according to some unwritten rules, if a witch did feel that, she would lose her powers, crying has the same effect).  But she does have a yen for a certain young publisher, Shep (Peter Schuyler), and her eccentric aunt (Kymberli Colbourme), has discovered some papers of his that reveals his personal history, which only draws Gillian more toward him, initially as more of an amusement than anything serious.
And so, witchcraft weaves its spell on them.
  She even helps him in his business by enticing a famous writer, Sidney (Joey Copsey), into this web.  Her fey brother, Nicky (Norman Wilson), also gets into the act with some unintended consequences.  A showdown is inevitable (wands at twenty paces?) and the ensuing result…well, you’ll just have to see it, won’t you?!
I was particularly interested in Palmer’s stylized approach to this play, as it sounds much like a Noel Coward style, with quick retorts, animated gestures and expressions and clipped dialogue, which works very well with this script and cast.
  Also, it is done in the round (meaning that the audience surrounds the set), which means sweeping, circular blocking for the actors, which also lends itself nicely to the style of the play.  In other words, it all blends smoothly into a perfect pate’ of delightful delicacies.
Palmer knows exactly what he’s doing (as he always does) and has the cast with just the right stuff.
  Colbourme is wonderful, as always, and Wilson is marvelous as the unscrupulous brother.  All is well and good with this splendid group in this entertaining showcase.
I recommend this play.
  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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