A Magical Bell Book and Candle at San Francisco Playhouse
Lauren English as Gillian Holroyd with her cat Pyewacket in Bell Book and Candle at SF Playhouse
SF Playhouse ushers in the holiday spirit for the company’s 10th season with the romantic comedy, Bell Book and Candle by John Van Druten and directed by Bill English.
The play opened on Broadway in 1950 and starred Lily Palmer and Rex Harrison. The movie version which starred Kim Novak and James Stewart opened in 1958.
The plot concerns Gillian Holroyd (Lauren English), a young, sultry witch who admires her neighbor, a publisher, Shep Henderson (William Connell), who one day stumbles into her gallery to use the telephone. When she learns he is about to marry an old college enemy of hers, she impulsively takes revenge by casting a love spell on him that backfires when she ends up falling for him herself.
Once Gillian falls in love, she loses her witch’s powers. She is unable to cast spells. Her sister, Queenie (Zehra Berkman) and brother Nicky (Scott Cox), a witch and warlock, do not quite know how to relate to this new human Gillian.
Lauren English sparkles as Gillian! She plays her role with a combination of sophistication and naivete, and creates a warm and touching portrait of an unhappy, bewildered witch.
William Connell gives a solid performance as Henderson, the straight laced book publisher. Gillian’s wacky sister Queenie is played by Zehra Berkman with delightful nervous energy. Scott Cox gives a strong performance as Nicky, Gillian’s immature brother. Louis Parnell gives a flawless performance as Sidney Redlitch, who wants Henderson to publish his manuscript on modern-day witchcraft.
Bill English’s handsome set done in red velvet gives a marvelous view of the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building from Gillian’s arched picture window. The imaginative costume design is by Abra Berman with Kurt Landisman doing the lighting design.
Bill English has assembled five talented actors for this production and keeps the action fast and snappy. Bell Book and Candle is light holiday entertainment and this production which runs through January 19, 2013 is thoroughly enjoyable.
Performances are Tuesday-Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m. No show on 12/25 or 1/1. Added Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. on 12/30, 1/6 and 1/13.
Performances are held at the SF Playhouse, 450 Post St. (2nd floor of Kensington Park Hotel b/n Powell and Mason), San Francisco. For tickets, contact the SF Playhouse box office at 415-677-9596 or go online at www.sfplayhouse.org.
Coming up next at SF Playhouse will be The Motherf**cker with the Hat by Stephen Adly Guirgis and directed by Bill English, opening January 29, 2013.
Flora Lynn Isaacson