Photo by Don Kellogg

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Bella: An American Tall Tale

Bella - or Isabella Patterson (Ashley D. Kelley) has a vivid and wild imagination indeed.  When she gets on a train to escape the pursuit of the law and heads west to New Mexico it really kicks into overdrive!  Her whole life, her mother (Kenita R. Miller) , aunt (Marinda Anderson), and grandmother (Natasha Yvette Williams) have known a special power to watch over her - and it is never needed as much as it is needed on this journey!  Bella meets the train conductor, Nathaniel Beckworth, (Brandon Gill) a circus master (Yurel Echezarreta), an Asian cowboy stripper, Tommie Haw, (Paolo Montalban), and many more vivid characters on the journey to meet her true love and betrothed, Aloysius T. Honeycutt (Britton Smith).  Oh the crazy and fun times she has when she falls asleep.  They are like no other.

In Kristen Child's new musical - whatever you see is real... or is it just a dream... what exactly is Bella in trouble for?  What did she do and who wants her back?  Is Aloysius real?  Can she really fly?  One thing is for sure - her booty is big and gives her the powers she needs to overcome just about any adversity.

The music and songs (all Ms. Childs) are delightful - a traditional old Broadway style - toe tappin' and fun.  The dancing is strong despite the tiny stage - which was a delightful stage within a stage due to the nature of the reality vs fantasy aspect of the plot.  Bella has the vocal cords of a giant and a personality to match - I really could picture Jennifer Hudson in the role.  One thing for sure, Ms. Childs infuses the fun and frivolity with serious undertones of race and freedom and gender equality - so that even a lay set in the late 1870's crackles with fresh perspectives.

Playwrights was right to end their season with this gem.  A common theme with plays fresh off the playwright's desk - this one is not different - too long and tries to say too much.  A few scenes cut and a few plot-lines deleted and we have a really fresh smash on our hands in just under 2 hours.  Head over to Playwrights Horizons for a summertime romp!