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Colonial Players’ Bell, Book and Candle

You’ll still find enchantment in this 63-year-old spell

Colonial Players opens its 64th season with a third take on Bell, Book and Candle a whimsical comedy about the power of love.
    Written by John van Druten in 1949 and better known as the 1958 movie, Bell, Book and Candle asks the same questions Bewitched asked many years later on television. Can a witch fall in love with a human? What happens if she does?
    Gillian Holroyd (Ali Vellon) is the witch. Her upstairs tenant, a publisher, Shep Henderson (Jason Vellon) is the man she falls for and upon whom she casts a love spell. Gillian’s eccentric Aunt Queenie (Carol Cohen) and her quirky Uncle Nicky (Jason Vaughn) add unexpected twists to the brew. The writer of a magic book, Sidney Redlitch (Jeffrey Miller) unknowingly uncovers the existence of the witches and warlocks to become part of the misadventure.
    “Love might be the most bewitching spell of all,” Director Debbie Barber-Eaton notes in the program. On opening night there were uneven signs of bewitchment.
    Jason Vellon made good on Shep’s necessary transitions from confused to besotted to angry at being tricked to accepting that love can appear with a spell or without. Cohen’s Aunt Queenie was big and overblown, as she should be, following Wonder of the World with another strong performance.
    Others seemed timid about playing the scenes as big as they needed to be for maximum impact.
    Ali Vellon gave us a very restrained witch. Her infatuation with Shep is spoken but not revealed, her joy in his love is understated and the penalty she pays for falling in love with a human seems to carry no cost to her.
    In the same vein, Vaughn’s Uncle Nicky was goofy and quirky, but the laughs might be greater had he turned up the quirky quotient.
    Perhaps they were nervous over how the last cast member, Bridget the cat, would react to a full house in the round. Ali Vellon, who has all the handling of the cat, kept a firm grasp on her familiar, Pyewacket.
    Colonial Players holds just as firmly to its amateur status and community theater values. Yet it grows more professional each year. Show programs have been enhanced with photographs of cast and crew. Posters, brochures and flyers continue their professional caliber of recent years. Company website — thecolonialplayers.org — is excellent, offering more than the expected dates, prices and directions. Here, too, is information on how a season is decided, copies of current and past programs and, in the very definition of corporate transparency, all the organizational governance documents.
    Bell, Book and Candle was created in 1949, at the same time creative forces were instigating Colonial Players. Both have proved to have lasting power to entertain and to enchant.

    Playing thru Oct. 6. FSa 8pm, Su 2pm at 108 East St., Annapolis. $20; rsvp: 410-268-7373; www.thecolonialplayers.org.