BWW Reviews: Charming Lead Bewitches in Long Wharf's BELL, BOOK & CANDLE

March 22
6:19 PM 2012


Michael Keyloun, Ruth Williamson and Kate MacCluggage. Photo: T. Charles Erickson

Long Wharf Theatre

Snap your fingers and you'll see Samantha, a witch married to mortal Darrin Stevens and trying to live life without witchcraft in the popular 1960s television sitcom "Betwitched." Twitch your nose, and travel back in time, and you'll see the inspiration for that: "Bell, Book and Candle," the 1958 motion picture starring Kim Novak, James Stewart and Jack Lemmon.

But before all that was the original 1950 stage play by John Van Druten that inspired it all. Directed by Hartford Stage's new Artistic Director Darko Tresnjak, the comedy gets a modern-day run at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, then moves on to co-producer Hartford Stage.

A bewitchingly beautiful Kate MacCluggage plays Gillian Holroyd, a witch who sets her sights on mortal Shepherd Henderson (Robert Eli) who lives upstairs from her red-swathed, moonlit New York apartment (Alexander Dodge's set evokes a modern look for 1950, complete with a rotating circle won the floor onderfully lighted by Matthew Richards). Shep hardly notices Gillian, though, and after she discovers that he is engaged to her former college rival, she uses some magic to make him hers.

With the help of her cat (a statue with some sound effects), her warlock brother, Nicky (Michael Keyloun), and her witchy aunt Queenie (Ruth Williamson), Gillian casts a romantic spell that brings the two together romantically. How can he resist? MacCluggage exudes a sexy, cat-like charm and Fabio Toblini's classic period costumes (and an evening wrap that is to die for) create a breathtaking vision and Shep is bewitched.

In a further effort to please her editor lover, Gillian uses her powers to summon Sidney Redlitch (Gregor Paslawsky), an author who writes about closeted witches who live right under everyone's noses in New York City. Shep might just publlish his work, until Nicky's interference starts an otherwordly clash affecting everyone.

The dark comedy delves into subtle questions of family, loyalty and even homosexuality, a taboo topic for 1950, as Gillian decides whether she wants to be with Shep even if that isn't what he really wants.

Tresnjak does a good job of keeping the action interesting despite a fairly week three-act play that runs way too long at two and a half hours.

Catch this engaging production at Long Wharf's Stage I through April 1. Tickets at Long Wharf Theatre are $40-$70 and can be purchased by visiting

The show moves to Hartford Stage April 5-29. Info at



Connecticut THEATER Stories | Shows  Like BWW CT  Follow BWW CT

About the Author

Get Author Alerts
Lauren Yarger Lauren, a former newspaper editor, is the editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection ( and Reflections in the Light ( where she reviews Broadway, Off-Broadway (read more...)

  • Second Event Launches CT Chapter of LPTW
  • An Old Guy is Making a Stir on the UConn Campus
  • Launch CT Chapter League of Professional Theatre Women
  • Connecticut Fall Preview
  • CT Critics Circle Announces Awards Nominations
  • Drama Desk Panel with Gavin Creel, Warren Carlyle, Steven Pasquale and Jessica Vosk on REVIVING THE REVIVAL Set for Sardi's, Today


    Sylvia in ConnecticutSylvia
    Hole in the Wall Theater
    (Runs 9/16 - 10/8) PHOTOS CAST
    Met Opera Live in HD: Wagner's Tristan und Isolde in ConnecticutMet Opera Live in HD: Wagner's Tristan und Isolde
    The Ridgefield Playhouse
    (Runs 10/8 - 10/8)
    The Bewitchingly Scrumptious and Extraordinary Mister Trick & Mrs. Treat in ConnecticutThe Bewitchingly Scrumptious and Extraordinary Mister Trick & Mrs. Treat
    Pantochino Productions Inc.
    (Runs 10/21 - 10/30)
    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in ConnecticutThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
    Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts [Belding Theater]
    (Runs 12/27 - 1/1)
    Is There Life After High School? in ConnecticutIs There Life After High School?
    The Suffield Players
    (Runs 10/6 - 10/22)


    Save $$$ on Tickets to:
    Backstage with Richard Ridge
    Back to Falsettoland w/ OBC - Passing the Torch
    Backstage Bite
    TV Exclusive: BACKSTAGE BITE with ALADDIN's Rodney Ingram!
    Turning the Tables
      Chewing the Scenery with Randy Rainbow
    TV:-LuPone's Autobio - Lands EVITA!
    BROADWAY SESSIONS Goes 'Back to School' Tonight