Assessment: Lunchbox's With Bells On gives hilarious, significant message

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Lunchbox Theatre’s vacation manufacturing of Darrin Hagen’s With Bells On proves the idiom ‘third time’s a allure’.

This story of a lonely introvert trapped in his condo elevator with a drag queen dressed as a Christmas tree is likely one of the most whimsical, charming methods to spend an hour.

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Lunchbox first introduced With Bells On in 2010 after which once more in 2014, each instances to enthusiastic turn-away crowds. In her program notes, creative director Bronwyn Steinberg says she programmed it this 12 months for 3 causes. Firstly, viewers members have been asking for the play’s return. Secondly, it’s been 9 years so it’s ripe for a revival however, additionally, with the current hostility drag occasions in Calgary have confronted, she felt the play’s message must be heard.

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The 2 characters in With Bells On are opposites. Ted (Bernardo Pacheco) is a shy, neurotic accountant reeling from a current divorce. Natasha (Joel Schaefer) is a brash, self-important extrovert on a mission. It’s Christmas Eve and Ted simply desires to be an observer at a membership or bar the place others are having enjoyable. He doesn’t need to sit residence alone in his lonely condo. Natasha desires to be the belle of the ball on the annual Magic Crystal Palace drag contest. Natasha desires to be seen and heard and applauded.

From the second the elevator will get caught, it’s apparent the place this little journey goes to take Ted and Natasha, however it’s how they get there that’s a lot enjoyable, due to Hagen’s intelligent, bitchy however all the time insightful, writing, and Conrad Belau’s no-holds-barred, creative route.

Lunchbox
Lunchbox Theatre’s With Bells On starring Joel Schaefer and Bernardo Pacheco. Picture, Benjamin Laird jpg

Belau permits Schaefer to have a manner as garish because the outfits he flaunts. Schaefer is the roaring lion to Pacheco’s cowering mouse, however in true Aesop fable custom, Ted will discover a technique to tame Natasha’s thorny disposition, and Natasha will discover a technique to launch Ted’s interior showman. There’s nice schtick every time the lights within the elevator dim or exit as a result of Ted is frightened of the darkish, and when Natasha boosts him up into the elevator shaft, it’s hilarious.

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If there was any actual surroundings in Cassie Holmes’ set, Pacheco and Schaefer would have had no drawback devouring it with such unbridled, unrestrained, unapologetic performances.

Benjamin Toner has devised costumes that conceal as a lot as they recommend. Natasha is like a kind of Matryoshka Russian dolls, with costumes inside costumes. Natasha has chosen Dolly Parton’s vacation tune With Bells On to sing on the drag contest, so someplace contained in the Christmas Tree lurks Natasha’s favorite nation singer. Someplace inside Dolly is a fair greater shock. Inside Ted’s easy outfit lurks a Hugh Jackman Biggest Showman. The closing routine choreographed by Alexa Elser is the showstopper it’s meant to be. Provided that each Schaefer and Pacheco are musical theatre actors, Belau ought to have turned them free and allow them to sing in addition to dance that last quantity.

The beauty of Hagen’s script is that Ted isn’t some uptight homophobe. He isn’t shocked by Natasha’s outlandish look and manner. He’s really in awe as a result of it’s so overseas to his timid nature. It’s this perspective in Ted that wins Natasha over as a result of, initially, Natasha thinks Ted, like so many individuals in his previous, is judging and condemning. Natasha turns into intrigued by Ted’s innate innocence and honesty and sees there’s a possible satan in her angelic neighbour that must be launched.

Ted and Natasha be taught it’s not garments that make the person, however tolerance, acceptance and understanding, that are the items the Clever Males took from the Nativity.

With Bells On runs till Dec. 17 at Lunchbox Theatre.

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