Natasha, like any great drag queen, knows how to make an entrance. Bedazzled like a Statue of Liberty Christmas Tree, her step onto the stage and into our hearts is about as subtle as a thunderstorm. Played by Trey Gerrald, she sets a tone for the delightful holiday play “With Bells On” at The Red Barn Theater through Jan. 5, with a special Dec. 25 performance. Canadian playwright Darrin Hagen, author of “Bitch Slap,” which previously played at Waterfront Theater, has brought his brand of fun and sarcasm back to the Key West stage just in time for the holidays.
Anxious about getting to a drag queen pageant, Natasha runs into Ted, played by Don Beardon, in their apartment building elevator. Predictably, the elevator gets stuck, trapping the two misfits in a delightful “getting to know each other” story line. Ted, a divorced older accountant, is nerdy and with the social graces of an awkward teenager – the antithesis of Natasha, effervescent and youthful, magnetic and impeccable throughout the performance.
“Rule number 1: my first answer is always sarcastic,” says Natasha.
“It’s like a whole new language,” marvels Ted.
Ted reveals himself to be a sweet loner and Natasha, for all her brazen beauty, is conscious of forever being a social outcast. Once the two find their common ground, the affection and friendship grow.
“It’s the gift that keeps on giving, it’s a terrific little play,” said Joy Hawkins, artistic director for the Red Barn Theatre
“Not everyone can be the show,” says Ted. “Some people have to be the audience,” proving opposite sides of the same coin can have some fun.
It’s a holiday feel-good play about the gifts we can give each other, like kindness, affection and humor. Playwright Hagen has drawn the familiar picture of wayward souls finding each other during the holidays with likable characters and one absolutely fabulous Christmas tree costume.
“I thought the play would be great down here,” said director Christopher Peterson. “I mean, it’s about two of our favorite things: drag queens and nervous men.” Peterson also made the dazzling tree costume.
Yes, it’s a little campy and full of puns but that is the best of drag. For anyone wanting to be uplifted during the season to be merry: “With Bells On” does it with a wink and a smile.