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Hamptons Theater Review: "My Witch: The Margaret Hamilton Stories" Is Spellbinding

T.J. Clemente

Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. (Courtesy Photo)

My Witch: The Margaret Hamilton Stories is everything great theater can be and then even more. Thrilling, entertaining and interesting. Jean Tafler is a real pro and outstanding as Margaret Hamilton. Once again Bay Street's Artistic Director, Scott Schwartz has found a brilliant new play to "World Premiere" on Bay Street Theater's stage in Sag Harbor.

Jean Tafler portrays Margaret Hamilton, whose Wicked Witch of the West left an indelible mark on America. If there is one movie we all share it's The Wizard of Oz and with that as a backdrop, the audience at the Bay Street Theater was under Jean Tafler's spell from the show's opening, which was the very first live performance of this new play by John Ahlin.

Directed by Will Pomerantz, Jean Tafler commands the stage and cagily moves about with a kinetic energy perhaps channeling the electricity from the lightning effects so brilliantly coordinated by the Production Designer, Brian Staton and the Scenic & Lighting Designer, Mike Billings along with Sound Designer, Connor Brent. Director Will Pomerantz has a feathered touch defining his productions. It is always worth attending when he is lending his skills directing a production.

What makes this show most appreciative is the coziness Jean Tafler brings to the life of Margaret Hamilton. The play is set in a cottage on a small island in Maine. Jean Tafler, through the words of playwright John Ahlin, amps up the audience with antidotes of Margaret Hamilton's life along with insightful tidbits about a time long ago when big movie studios ran Hollywood and Hollywood stars' lives. I enjoyed the inside gossip about long ago Hollywood and the production of The Wizard of Oz movie.

There is both a homespun brilliance to the writing and a genuine affectionate performance that merge to bring the audience into the heart of this one woman play. It's truly a conversational play with a woman perhaps defined by her twelve minutes of total screen time in The Wizard of Oz that has terrified almost every person who has ever viewed that epic movie. Humanizing Margaret Hamilton to be a former Cleveland kindergarten teacher that she once was, and showing off her seasoned acting prowess is perhaps the gem within the production.

My Witch: The Margaret Hamilton Stories is a must see if you love the movie The Wizard of Oz, but it's also a must see because Jean Tafler gives a brilliant, strong Tony Award worthy caliber performance seemingly so effortlessly displaying her talent, skills and gift as an actor.

My Witch: The Margaret Hamilton Stories will run from Wednesday, July 17 through Sunday, July 21. Tickets start at $40.

Bay Street is located at 1 Bay Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, call 631-725-9500 or visit www.baystreet.org.

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