Good romantic comedies are timeless, and the 65-year-old “Bell, Book and Candle,” a Broadway and movie hit, is still casting its spell.
The romantic comedy, written by John Van Druten, is the Pewter Plough Playhouse's current production.
All of the action in “Bell, Book and Candle,” and there is plenty of it, takes place in the Greenwich Village apartment of Gillian Holroyd, played by the lively and shapely Makayla DuBois. It's the early 1960s — although not much indicates the time period, save for the rotary dial telephone.
A practicing witch, Gillian has set her sights on her tenant, book publisher Shep Henderson, smoothly played by Gryphon Strom.
To Gillian’s delight, Shep shows up at her door on Christmas Eve, but the attraction isn't mutual. Shep not only refuses a drink, but also makes it clear that he is not there to socialize.
He's come to complain about the tenant on the floor above him, Queenie, delightfully portrayed by the lovely Jean Miller.
Queenie is not merely a bit of an airhead and a meddlesome busybody, but also Gillian's aunt. And she also delves in witchcraft.
Sorcery runs in the family, we soon learn, when Gillian's brother Nicky shows up for a Christmas gift exchange. Wonderfully played by the talented Cory Schonauer, Nicky is a warlock, and as ill-behaved as Aunt Queenie. Neither relative shows much respect for their craft, pulling pranks like mischievous children.
Although he holds no truck with the paranormal, Shep wants to snag a bestselling author who writes about magic, Sidney Redlitch, played by Larry Barnes as a convincing and charming drunk who makes no bones about his penchant for booze. Redlitch arrives at Gillian’s door late Christmas Eve after the witch uses sorcery to summon him.
As Gillian reveals in the opening act of "Bell, Book and Candle" she's willing to use everything in her power to get what she wants.
Gillian hopes to use her womanly wiles to capture Shep's heart, but learns she has to act fast. With the aid of her familiar, a black cat named Pyewacket (actually a hand puppet DuBois holds in her arms), Gillian bewitches Shep before he can get out the door.
Shep, a fairly conservative, responsible man, is stunned to be suddenly and overwhelmingly attracted to Gillian.
After a brief embrace and kiss, the two of them vanish into Gillian's bedroom.
They return in a flash, with nary a wrinkle on their clothes. Shep's hair is unmussed, his shirt neatly buttoned and tucked in and he’s still wearing his shoes and socks. Gillian, who normally prefers to go around barefoot, still has her boots and the rest of her clothes on, although her formerly pinned-up hair is now down.
It turns out the lovers, seemingly gone for mere seconds, had spent three hours getting intimately acquainted.
Although the set she designed for “Bell, Book and Candle” lacks pizzazz, director Chrys Barnes shows her directorial expertise throughout the fast-paced play, keeping the dialogue swift and the laughs coming on cue. The well-seasoned cast doesn’t skip a beat, and the actors smoothly correct themselves if slightly fluffing a line.
The audience will be spellbound by the magic taking place on stage.
“Bell, Book and Candle”
7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday; through March 8
Pewter Plough Playhouse, 824 Main St., Cambria
$22, $17 students
927-3877 or www.pewterploughplayhouse.org