CLOTA opens romantic comedy

CLOTA opens romantic comedyBy LAURA QUEZADA

News Review Staff Writer

Opening Friday, July 23 at 7:30: CLOTA brings a lighthearted, romantic comedy to the stage in their air-conditioned theater at 1425 North Inyo Street in Ridgecrest. Bell, Book & Candle is the group’s first return to the boards after the pandemic. “It felt like coming out of the pandemic something lighter would be nice,” says Kevin LaBrie, President of CLOTA’s Board of Directors. The group had originally planned to produce Anne Frank which had been cast before the pandemic, but not all cast members were available. However, some “were itching to do another show. So we decided to utilize that energy. We thought that after the pandemic doing a play that was lighter would be a great way to reopen to the community as we all get back to normal.”

Bell, Book & Candle by John Van Druten was made into a film starring Jimmy Stewart. LaBrie tells us, “It is a story about a modern day witch, Gillian, set in the late 1960’s early 1970’s who casts a love spell on a publisher, Shep” to settle an old rivalry. Complications arise because if witches fall in love, they lose their power.

“Shep is trying to publish a book by Sidney Ridlitch, who is an expert on modern day witches,” says LaBrie. “Sidney, played by Ben Bockhahn, is colorful character and a fan of drink as most authors are perceived to be. He has just come from Mexico after finishing a book, Magic in Mexico.”

LaBrie, playing the role of Shep, decided against modeling his character after the Jimmy Stewart version saying he wanted his character to develop more organically. He says, “I am mainly working from the outside in. Normally I try to develop a back story, but over the years I have shifted from that. I have determined that he is a Taurus and that he no longer has a mother. Those are the biggest background decisions I have made.” He adds, “The most character development I have experienced is in my interactions with my opposite, with Gillian, played by Anne Busby, and that has been a pleasure and really interesting. Not only on the stage but off the stage, talking about ‘what do these lines mean?’

As I have gone through this I tried to think about the spell, like any sort of attraction to another person whether it is magical or not, does tend to make one pay attention. After initial interest has peaked, you begin to know more about the person and when you do this it can either make you fall out of love or become more deeply attached to them.

Shep’s responses to her could be interpreted as patronizing, which would be easy to do, but it did not seem true to Shep. I wanted to pull away from that. Shep feels to me that he is more traditional, but there is so much more that he is breaking away from or what is in his words, ‘extraordinary,’ about his relationship with Gillian that he would tend to be pulled away from a traditional patronizing response because he respects her. He is really actually listening to her.”

Also in the cast are K. Pearl Woolam and Sam Johnson. The play is directed by Larry Lier and Assistant Director, Grace Lloyd. The play can be seen July 23, 24, 30, 31, August 6 and 7 at 7:30PM with a 2pm Matinee on August 1. They respectfully request that masks be worn unless one has proof of vaccination. Tickets available at Red Rock Books or online at

Laura Austin photo: Kevin LaBrie (Shep) and Annie Busby (Gillian) Shep demands to know what Gillian is up to while searching for the truth about their sudden and passionate relationship in CLOTA’s "Bell, Book & Candle."

Story First Published: 2021-07-23