Vote for your favorite Dish of the Week

Battle of the Movie Stars #123: 1952-56

The Groovy List featuring Luke Evans

We're looking forward to more EastSiders

Battle of the Broadway Stars #11: 2001-02 Season
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Hell in a Handbag gets Bewitched, Bothered and BEWILDERED



I would assume that most people are familiar with the TV sitcom, Bewitched, which ran for 254 episodes on ABC from 1964 to 1972. I watched the syndicated reruns on weekday afternoons during the 1970s, and the series has since appeared on Nick at Nite, TV Land and other cable channels. And now its simple premise of a beautiful young witch trying to lead the life of an ordinary suburban housewife has been adapted into BEWILDERED, an enjoyable new musical parody for the stage. But instead of focusing on that nose-twitching witch, Samantha Stephens, book writer Ron Weaver has given Samantha's nosy neighbor, Gladys Kravitz, the starring role - and a few catchy tunes (co-written with Aaron Benham). So whether or not you're a fan of the original series, I think that you will have a gay ol' time at this world premiere presented by Chicago's Hell in a Handbag Productions.

Speaking of gay, Bewitched was always kind of a fabulous campfest with its many over-the-top characters like Samantha's mother Endora (played by the divine Agnes Moorehead) and Samantha's Uncle Arthur (played by the barely in-the-closet Paul Lynde). And Weaver and director Brigitte Ditmars have only heightened the queerness by having Samantha's husband Darrin played by two actors - as he was in the sitcom when a straight Dick York was replaced by a gay Dick Sargent in Season 6. Now the character has both a straight and gay persona who frequently interact onstage (and are amusingly portrayed by Scott Sawa and AJ Wright). And then there's Arthur, whom Handbag regular Ed Jones plays with a scene-stealing Paul Lynde impression that is a wicked delight throughout - and his Act 1 number, "Let Yourself Be a Little Gay", is worth the price of admission. Mr. Jones is one of Chicago's best comic actors in my opinion, and he certainly rises to the occasion with his latest hilarious performance.

The rest of the cast is equally good, especially Elizabeth Morgan (who makes a perfect Samantha), David Cerda (who imbues his Endora with plenty of sass and humor) and Robert Williams (who is fun to watch in his dual roles as Samantha's daughter Tabitha and a tipsy Louise "Weezie" Tate). But as I stated before, BEWILDERED is Gladys Kravitz's show. The character was mainly used for laughs in the TV series, but now in the talented hands of actress Caitlin Jackson, Gladys becomes a sympathetic and endearing leading lady worth rooting for. The only "performance" that I didn't care much for was a pumpkin representing Samantha's son Adam (it's not that funny nor necessary to the story). And one final kudo to costume designer Rachel Sypniewski, who deserves an award just for Endora's enchanting wardrobe.

So obviously I liked BEWILDERED and its terrific cast, who offer up many light-hearted laughs. And in today's increasingly dark and depressing world, a "magical" romp like this is just what the Dr. Bombay ordered (and if you don't get that reference, you need to bone up on your Bewitched).

BEWILDERED runs through November 11 at Stage 773 (1225 W. Belmont Ave). For tickets, go to www.handbagproductions.org or call (773) 327-5252.

Photo credit: Rick Aguilar Studios

No comments: