Witches in popular culture came a long way in the years between Margaret Hamilton's green-skinned freakshow in The Wizard of Oz and blonde Elizabeth Montgomery, in Maybelline and miniskirts, on Bewitched.
In between there was Kim Novak as Gillian Holroyd, urban witch, in the romantic comedy Bell, Book and Candle.
Although the 1958 film version, which paired sex kitten Novak with no-nonsense straight arrow Jimmy Stewart, was a huge hit (and still makes regular TV appearances to this day), Bell, Book and Candle began life as a Broadway play, written by John van Druten, in the early '50s.
Savannah's Collective Face Theatre Ensemble has chosen Bell, Book and Candle as its holiday-season show. It opens Dec. 6 at Muse Arts Warehouse, directed by company founder David I.L. Poole.
Alexis Mundy (last seen as Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice) plays the witch in question.
"Gillian goes through quite the journey in this play," Mundy says. "My personal favorite part is the second act, because there's a lot of fun stuff that happens to Gillian. In the beginning, she's a little bored hanging out with witch people, her coven. She's bored with putting spells on people. She just wants to sort of get out of herself. And I like that about her. She's like 'I want to hang out with someone different.'"
Gillian gets goofy over Shep Henderson, her uptight upstairs neighbor (played here by Zachary Burke).
"I think she falls for him because he's completely normal," Mundy offers. "He's a publisher, he's a nine-to-fiver, and she's looking for a little bit of comfort in the everyday. She wants normalcy in her life, as opposed to this drama, this chaos, these witches she's hanging out with all the time."
Gillian's family includes her brother Nicky (Kevin Santana) and her Aunt Queenie (Mickey Dodge). They are, to be blunt, anything but normal.
Then there's Sidney Redlitch (Eric Salles), an investigative author who wants Shep to publish his upcoming book on witchcraft in the city. Redlitch is getting uncomfortably close to the family secret.
Dodge and Salles were both in Pride and Prejuduce with Mundy; Burke and Santana appeared (with Salles) in the most recent Collective Face show, Equus.
For Mundy, the Marketing and Physician Relations Director at Savannah Vascular and Cardiac Institute, there's a welcome comfort in being part of a repertory company.
In the case of Bell, Book and Candle, she says, "It's kind of nice to know you're booked solid for those three months, and then you know you won't be in a show in the spring, so you can plan. Woo-hoo, I can travel, I can go to see my family, I can go to Italy to see my sister.
"I think that David is really good at giving you challenging roles — at least he is for me!"
Collective Face members are free to audition for other company's productions at any time. And Poole frequently brings in non-company members to augment his own casts.
A native of York, PA, Mundy took the job with Savannah Vascular in 2011. She'd been involved in theater since little-kid days, and offered her service to the Collective Face almost as soon as she arrived.
As luck would have it, just that week an actress had dropped out of Angels in America, Part One. After an audition (in which she had to recite some lines in Hebrew), Mundy joined the cast.
Since then, she's been in No Exit, What the Butler Saw and Pride and Prejudice.
"I just love to be around people; I'm a people person to the extreme," Mundy enthuses. "I will talk to anyone, anywhere. And I like the collaborative process — experimenting in a scene, 'Let's try this,' 'Now let's try this.' Trying different tactics in a scene.
"Some of the best parts, for me, are laughing hysterically in rehearsal. Trying to keep my act together! Those are the best parts the audience doesn't see.
"From the table read to the very last bow, it's really magical when you think about it. Well, it's like magic but there's a lot of work involved."
Reservations: (912) 232-0018
Bell, Book and Candle
Where: Muse Arts Warehouse, 703 Louisville Road
When: At 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Dec. 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21; and at 3 p.m. Sundays, Dec. 8, 15 and 22
Opening night reception: Catered by Joe's Homemade
Tickets: $20 general admission; $15 seniors/students/active military
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