WITH BELLS ON AT THE RED BARN / THEATER REVIEW
By Joanna Brady
December 14, 2018
With Bells On at the Red Barn / Theater Review
A side-splitting play to ring in the holiday season
By Joanna Brady
I’m still laughing after seeing With Bells On last night at the Red Barn Theater, truly one of the funniest plays I’ve seen in a long time.It was written by Darren Hagen, the talented stage writer who penned Bitch Slap, and numerous other plays in his native Canada.
This is the firsttime With Bells On will be performed in the U.S. It stars Don Bearden as Ted, a dorky, depressed accountant, and Trey Gerrald as the stunning drag queen, Natasha.
The premise appears simple enough. The ‘showgirl’, 6’7” tall in stilettos and thediminutive straight accountant get on the same elevator. She’s in a rush to get to her club, the Magical Crystal Palace, a kind of Cageaux Folles, where she performs. This night she’s hoping to win the grand prize, ‘Mary Christmas’ queen, dressed in her flamboyant Christmas tree costume with its amazing headdress—yes, it even lights up. Imagine, if you will, the downtrodden loser, newly divorced, getting stuck with this lovely over-the-top creature between floors in an elevator.
That people don’t usually talk to each other in elevators is a given. We usually look straight ahead, trying not to brush body parts with our own, swive lour heads to avoid breathing halitosis, and generally mind our own business.
But what happens if the elevator gets stuck? Surely, it would have to produce a thaw in our reserve? After all, we’re trapped in an elevator with strangers, isolated from the rest of the world. When it happens in the play, the two actors perform brilliantly, playing off each other until a rapport develops, underlining the mutual tolerance in heren’t in the well touted Key West motto, ‘one human family.’ At first Natasha is dismissive of nerdy Ted. He on the other hand is curious about her, never having met a drag queen before. She’s exuberant;he’s claustrophobic. This pairing is a celebration of opposites.
Yes, they do eventually get off the elevator. And by the end of this highly entertaining play he has learned to move with her dance steps. But you’ll have to see the play to find out how it ends. Suffice it to say, the final scene is wild and hilarious.
Darren Hagen, the playwright, says of his script: “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.”
Directing With Bells On is the multi talented Christopher Peterson who also created the costumes. Peterson is one of the premiere drag queen performers in Key West, well known for his fantastic impersonations.As designer, he has created costumes for other Key West plays. Many of you may remember his amazing outfits—and his outstanding role—in‘The Legend of Georgia McBride’ earlier this year.
Stage Manager is Annie Miners. Set is by Gary McDonald and Jack McDonald, Lighting Design, Jack McDonald.
With Bells On runs Dec. 11 through Jan. 5. Curtains at 8:00 p.m. Lasts 1 hour 10min. No intermission. Bar opens 7:30 pm, doors open at 7:45. Reduced price Preview on Monday, Dec. 10. Opening night ticket holders on Dec. 11 invited to the Opening Night Party. Special performance Christmas evening, Dec. 25. (Reserve early!) For tickets, see redbarntheatre.com/tickets. Facebook page: Red Barn Theatre KW. Box office number, 305 296-9911.
(Joanna Brady is a local writer, author of the historical novel of Key West, The Woman at the Light, published by St. Martin’s Press)