The romantic comedy, Bell, Book & Candle, which opened Friday, June 2, at Theatre Palisades, provided a delightful evening and accomplished acting.
Based on the 1950 play by John Van Druten, the story centers around a witch, Gillian Holroyd (Jasmine Haver), living in New York City’s Greenwich Village.
Gillian is attracted to Shepherd Henderson (Andrew Cereghino), her upstairs neighbor. When the audience meets him, we learn that he is engaged to Gillian’s old college rival, someone she can’t stand. She decides to put a love spell on the handsome publisher.
When Gillian’s “Aunt Queenie” (also a witch), played perfectly by Laura Goldstein, puts a spell on Henderson’s phone, he comes to Gillian’s apartment to use hers, setting in motion the love spell.
Henderson mentions he would like to meet a best-selling author, Sidney Redlitch, who is an authority on magic. Redlitch claims he can recognize a witch because they are unable to blush or cry.
Using a magic potion her brother Nicky Holroyd (Jeff Coppage) gave her that would allow her to summon whomever she desires, Gillian sends for Redlitch who shows at her door, puzzled why he is there.
Michael-Anthony Nozzi, as Redlitch captures the quirkiness of the author.
Later he makes a deal with Gillian’s brother Nicky, a warlock (it seems witches run in the family), who offers to disclose “witching” secrets.
Nicky (Jeff Coppage) is effortless in playing Gillian’s caring brother.
Shepherd finds himself under Gillian’s spell, and she also starts to fall in love. But, love is a problem for witches because once they are in love, they lose their powers.
The cast, Laura Goldstein, Jeff Coppage, Michael-Anthony Nozzi, Andrew Cereghino and Jasmine Haver, is excellent.
A special mention goes to Cereghino and Haver. They have a nice chemistry, which makes this a believable love story. The give and take between the actors is nicely balanced. The audience likes these two people, cares about them and hopes for a happy ending.
The play is directed by Brandon Polanco, who is making his Theatre Palisades debut. His casting is “spot on.” If there were a criticism, it would be for perhaps a faster pacing, because it is a comedy.
In Polanco’s notes about the play, he writes “To wield magic is to empower yourself not with power but with love. . . .Written and produced in 1950, I have found this play to be ahead of its time in understanding witches and magic. A witch is neither male nor female; it is a human being who believes in magic as a way of life.”
Produced by Martha Hunter and Maria O’Conner, several actors including Haver, Cereghino (a Palisadian), and Coppage are making Theatre Palisades debuts.
An old comedy, a cast of newcomers and excellent direction all provide an evening, that in 1950, The New York Times wrote “. . .completely enchanting- a wonderfully suave and impish fantasy.”
That is still true in 2023 in the Palisades, and this reviewer adds, “this show includes some outstanding performances.”
The play will run through July 8 on Friday and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. at the Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road. For tickets call (310) 454-1970 or visit: theatrepalisades.org.