WITH BELLS ON: A Christmas Story with Balls


For further information, call: Bob Bowersox at 302-540-6102

For the DECEMBER 6 issue of PARADISE


WITH BELLS ON: A Christmas Story with Balls

Canadian playwright Darren Hagen doesn’t really like Christmas all that much. So he didn’t really mean to pen a Christmas play.

“Well, it’s not quite like a Christmas play,” Hagen said recently, “but yet it is…there’s Christmas music playing in the elevator.”

Wait, wait. Elevator?!? Okay…let’s rewind a minute and start at the beginning.

“With Bells On” is Hagen’s newest play, which will have its American Premiere at the Red Barn Theatre in Key West for a four week run, December 11 through January 5. It stars Trey Gerrald and Don Bearden and will be directed -- and maybe more anticipated – costumed by Key West’s unequaled man with a needle and thread, Christopher Peterson.

The elevator is just that, and it’s the only thing on the stage. And it’s stuck between floors. Ted (Bearden) appears to be a short, quiet, emotionally unassuming, dweeb accountant who has entered the elevator in his not-so-luxurious apartment building, where he’s been living since his recent divorce. Standing next to him – or maybe “towering” over him would be more appropriate – is Natasha (Gerrald), a six-foot-seven-inch (in heels) drag queen dressed like a Christmas Tree, who is completely beside herself because this stalled elevator will cause her to miss her chance to be crowned Christmas Queen in the holiday pageant at the Magic Crystal Palace downtown.

If you’re thinking this is a perfect set-up for some hilarity, you’d be correct. You’re going to laugh a lot. The juxtapositioning of two such opposite characters in such a situation is full of comic possibilities, and Hagen takes complete advantage of them all. The puns and comic lines fly fast and furious, as Ted and Natasha try to find a way to extricate themselves from circumstances neither of them is comfortable in.

But the play is about more than that. Because Ted is not the sadsack milquetoast we initially think him to be, nor is he a prig or homophobe. He actually grows curious about the exotic creature he’s met. And this interest begins to work some magic on an initially hostile Natasha.

Says Hagen: “It’s ultimately about creating a common ground among seemingly opposite strangers – not just between the two characters on stage, but across cultural and age barriers in the audience as well.”

Peterson agrees. “What appeals to me the most is that it brings together two of my most favorite things in Key West: nervous men and drag queens.” (Big laugh) “And how a friendship can come out of something as strange as two completely different kinds of people thrown together in a weird situation.”

So, yeah, it’s a holiday show…there’s the Christmas music in the elevator and all. And it’s a very funny premise, very funnily written. But “With Bells On” is so much more than that. As Peterson put it: “The play ultimately encompasses our motto here in Key West – One Human Family.”

And the costume for Natasha?

“Oh, wait until you see it,” Peterson said, a note of pure joy in his voice. “She lights up like a Christmas tree – because she’ll be dressed like one, balls and all!”

Tickets for “With Bells On” are available now at redbarntheatre.com/tickets or by calling 305-296-9911. There will be a Reduced-Price Preview on Monday, December 10 and Opening Night ticketholders on December 11 will be invited to the Opening Night Party in the courtyard of the Red Barn, where they can mingle with the cast and crew. For more information, visit redbarntheatre.com or the Red Barn’s FaceBook page, Red Barn Theatre KW.

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marky pierson