Clockwise from top, Leonard Kelly-Young,Thomas Vincent Kelly, Susan Ruttan, Mattie Hawkinson and Zachary Ford
David Bazemore photos
It’s time for the Ensemble Theater Company to put on its big holiday show, and what can be more seasonal than… witches? With “Bell, Book and Candle,” opening tonight, you can have both yuletide fun and the casting of spells. This 1950 Broadway play from John Van Druten later got made into a Hollywood film starring James Stewart and Kim Novak, their only other on-screen team-up apart from in “Vertigo,” along with Jack Lemmon and Ernie Kovacks. Its mixture of romantic comedy and witchcraft influenced the show “Bewitched” six years later, and its domestic nature still gets played out in shows like “Charmed.”
The setting is Manhattan, circa 1950, and it’s Christmas time. Gillian (Mattie Hawkinson) is the young woman who is working her charms on her upstairs neighbor Shepherd (Thomas Vincent Kelly, last seen here in “Opus”). And “charms” is right: she’s a witch, and he doesn’t know it yet. But there’s also a rule — perhaps it’s in the back of a book of spells, who knows — that if a witch falls in love, she could lose all her powers. Gillian has two relatives to help her through this troubling time: Aunt Queenie (Susan Ruttan), also a witch, and Gillian’s brother Nicky (Zachary Ford). Also on hand is Sidney (Leonard Kelly-Young) a crazy writer who is working on a book about witchcraft. Guest director Brian Shnipper is set to work this all up into a magical holiday brew.