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Braving the continuous cold, Mrs K and I drove up to Noblesville last night to see The Belfry’s current offering – Bell, Book and Candle, a play by John Van Druten which was written in 1950 and which was supposedly an influencing factor for the long-running 1960’s television program, “Bewitched”. Notably, Mr. Druten also wrote such plays as I Remember Mama and I am a Camera, which was the basis for the hit musical, Cabaret.

Directed by Jeff Bick, presented on a nifty set design by Kendall Roberts and David Todd – Bell, Book and Candle is the story of Gillian Holroyd, a somewhat disheartened witch, who with her warlock brother Nicky and their like-powered Aunt Queenie, spend their time setting spells – some for fun, some for profit. Gillian appears to be the most moral of the trio until she devises a spell for her winsome upstairs neighbor, Shep Henderson. The spell causes him to be drawn away from his fiancé, a woman known to and despised by Gillian from their days together in college, and thus drawn toward Gillian. Got all that? It is a rather lengthy central idea and thus the play has a rather drawn-out exposition. But, plays from the 50’s (this one comes in three acts, but is presented as two, with a really long pre-intermission offering) are different art forms than what has been written beginning in the 60’s.

Once Shep is spelled to love only Gillian, we see that the plan is headed for a fall, as Gillian, being a witch, is not given over to love (or, we are told, crying either). There is the inevitable falling out, the noting in separation that Gillian is indeed in love, and the compulsory rejoining at the finish.

Tamara Rulon and real-life husband, Gavin Rulon take the parts of Gillian and Shep. As can be expected, they definitely are comfortable playing their roles off each other. Mr. & Mrs. Rulon are certainly good actors (I have had the opportunity to both be onstage with them and to direct them in recent years), but they seem bogged down at times by the slow pacing and tempo of their scenes. It’s not that their characterizations are lacking in any way – I just see how a better tempo could have aided in energizing some of their scenes together and with others.

Livelier moments come to us when Carla Crandall visits as Aunt Queenie, or when John Parks Whitaker comes on as brother Nicky. Ms. Crandall deals a perfectly formed Queenie – playful, impetuous and lively. I fully enjoyed her time onstage. Whitaker takes more than a few chances with his devilish portrayal – projecting a warlock who has fun with his powers and whom we probably would not mind palling around with. He energizes the scene whenever he is onstage and I believe the vast majority of his chances do indeed pay off well.

John Parks Whitaker (Nicky), Tamara Rulon (Gillian) and Carla Crandall (Aunt Queenie) create a spell.

John Parks Whitaker (Nicky), Tamara Rulon (Gillian) and Carla Crandall (Aunt Queenie) create a spell.


Rounding out the cast is Stefan U.G. LeBlanc, who some may remember from his turn in Buck Creek Player’s Escanaba in da Moonlight last year. LeBlanc plays the animated, mostly drunken writer, Sidney Redlitch, and he plays him in a big way. Being a large man – this choice translates into a double-sized performance that nearly leaps off the stage. I sat in the front row and perhaps that was just too close for that performance. I have a feeling it may have read differently from several rows back.

All in all, this production has many good things to offer. The lighting effects during the magic spells is very well done under the direction of Dave Melton; the stage setting, as I have already noted, works well and looks very good; costume designs, led by Mrs. Rulon, certainly help define the characters and those characters are welled created and well played. On the flip side – nearly 2 1/2 hours is a long time at the theatre these days. I have often previously stated how a general lack of pacing and tempo can be the number one enemy of any production and so it is here. Like music played at the wrong time setting, we hold our breaths waiting for the next ‘note’ to be made and it wears us down a bit.

This is not to say that the show was wholly without tempo – but long scenes are played with languished pausing – in my humble opinion – and Director Bick could have added a bit most rising and falling beats to the pacing, especially during the complicated exposition scenes.

All in all, it definitely was a treat to see so many friends onstage at once and I was grateful we attended.

Bell, Book and Candle continues Feb 8, 9, 14, 15 & 16. Ticket and show information can be yours by calling The Belfry at 773-1085 or by visiting online at http://www.thebelfrytheatre.com .

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