Review “Bewildered” (Hell in a Handbag): Frothy, Bawdy, Carefree Flashback!

Hell in a Handbag presents BEWILDERED.

Fans of the beloved 60s TV show “Bewitched” get a treat this Halloween season. The creative team of Ron Weaver (book, lyrics, music) and Aaron Benham (music, lyrics) revisit the mixed marriage of a witch and a mortal. This time the tale is narrated from the perspective of the noisy neighbor Gladys Kravitz (played by the outstanding comic songstress Caitlin Jackson). Finally, people are listening to the long suffering Gladys’ rants about the odd going-ons across the street. And the bizarre happenings get cranked up as Weaver and Benham tease out the wacky elements of the show itself, like; Darrien was played by two actors, Uncle Arthur was a gay swinger and Adam, the Stephens’ son, was a mere prop. The clever show is throwback fun. Weaver and Benham even do a musical homage number to all 60s sitcoms that include “The Munsters”, “I Dream of Jeannie” and “Mr. Ed.”

Who better to bring the campy comedy of the 60s to stage than Chicago’s camp experts, Hell in a Handbag! Handbag Artistic Director David Cerda (Endora), in a role and wardrobe that he was born to rock, leads the magical buffoonery. Cerda’s signature biting sarcasm nails Endora’s b/witchy persona. And his stage presence captures Endora’s flourishing dramatics. Somewhere in the cosmos an amused Agnes Moorhead is laughing her ass off.

Along with Cerda, Handbag regular Ed Jones (Uncle Arthur) goes gaudy and naughty with his over-the-top hysterical shenanigans. Jones channels the legendary Paul Lynde with sneering zingers. Bringing the normalcy to the lunacy is Elizabeth Morgan (Samantha). The charming Morgan balances out the mayhem. Her calm demeanor, regular ‘sweetheart’ insertions and even affected inflections ring true to the original Samantha. One of my favorite performances was given by the hilarious Robert Williams (Tabitha/Louise). In dual roles, Williams transitioned from adorable cherub to raging drunk. His facial expressions and moxie were riotous.

Although I very much enjoyed the frolic, some of the show felt clunky. In particular, the magic stagehands are very present onstage to help with the trick illusions. Instead of dressed as uniformed black background, they each wear different outfits. They steal focus instead of disappearing. They add bodies to the small stage without adding meaning. They literally get in the way of seamless transitions.

Still, the frothy and bawdy BEWILDERED is a carefree flashback. This is how Hell in a Handbag does Halloween and it’s a hoot! Witch’s Honor!

Running Time: Two hours and thirty minutes includes an intermission

At Stage 773 (Box Theater), 1225 W. Belmont Ave.

Book by Ron Weaver

Music and Lyrics by Aaron Benham and Ron Weaver

Directed/Choreographed by Brigitte Ditmars

Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm

Sundays at 3 pm

Special Halloween Show: Tuesday, October 31 at 7:30 pm

Thur November 11, 2017

Tickets: Previews $22 in advance ($25 at door). Regular run $34 in advance ($39 at door). Tickets are currently available at www.handbagproductions.org and stage773.com, by calling 773-327-5252, or in person at the Stage 773 box office.

Photos by Rick Aguilar Studios

For more information and reviews on Chicago theatre, visit Theater in Chicago.

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