Jean Tafler as Margaret Hamilton in “My Witch” at Hubbard Hall. Photo: David Snider
My Witch: The Stories of Margaret Hamilton
Hubbard Hall, Cambridge, New York
Written by John Ahlin, directed by Al D’Andrea
âI was born two years after the end of the Victorian era. But nobody told them in Cleveland. “
Jean Tafler plays Margaret Hamilton, a famous actress nobody knows or remembers, says Hamilton in this new play now being performed at Hubbard Hall in Cambridge, New York. That means, except for one role: The Wicked Witch of the West in “The Wizard of Oz”, which was filmed and published in 1939. In truth, she is right. And it wasn’t until 1956, when the film made its annual television appearance on Thanksgiving, that people finally noticed it. However, Hamilton starred in films almost constantly and then returned to her stage roots and began a television career. She worked a lot more than most actresses, one of the joys of being a character woman and not a glamor star.
In her hut in Maine, on her own island, she enters her non-electric house in shock to find an audience waiting for her. A storm is brewing and she is comforted not to be alone. She feels talkative and before you can enter her world she has opened the doors of memory and the game is the thing. Tafler hits exactly the right note from the moment they appear. John Ahlins monodrama is a very well done performance piece, staged with an unusual naturalness by Al D’Andrea, and his current tour is ideally suited for small theaters with limited audiences. It benefits a lot from this intimacy.
I had the pleasure of meeting Hamilton in the mid-1960s. She appeared in a production of Show Boat at Lincoln Center and shared a locker room with my friend Rosetta LeNoire. When we met, we just hit it off, and she invited me over to her apartment in Gramercy Park for tea. As I watched this show and watched her prepare for a similar event in her dressing room in Maine, I was surprised by Tafler’s uncanny resemblance to the actress herself. In her movement and tone of voice, she could conjure up this reality without imitating Hamilton’s voice or style of speech. She just created her own Margaret Hamilton who said she would be like that in such circumstances. I can’t say for sure, but I think the playwright even gave her the right nibbles for such an occasion.
Tafler sings well and Hamilton was very capable with a song. Her last role on stage was on the tour of Sondheim’s edition of “Songs of a Summer Night,” the film he turned into “A Little Night Music,” which replaced Hermione Gingold and completely surpassed her. There is so much to learn about Hamilton, and this piece will teach you all of it painlessly and poignantly. The relationship with her son is explored in a number of different ways, and by the time she prepares to greet her unlikely guests, the actress on stage has you ready to see another delicious side of the actress she portrays. The piece is so good and the team of talented people who created it is second to none.
It seldom happens that I fall in love with a one-off, but this year I face too many good ones to write about. This one is full of the unexpected and is presented in a fresh way that is both engaging and engaging. It happens to be the second of the year with a Margaret Hamilton theme. The Bridge Street Theater in Catskill, New York, featured Steven Patterson in “Miss Gulch Returns!” Play Alma Gulch – Hamilton’s first character in “The Wizard of Oz” – and Tafler was supposed to be on stage in Catskill In December with this piece, part of his world premiere tour. Maybe I just have to go there and look at this again. It is so good.
My Witch plays at Hubbard Hall on Main Street in Cambridge, New York, west of Route 22 through November 14th. For information and tickets, visit Hubbard Hall website.