After not being able to see it at the Fringe Festival two years ago, I was greatly relieved and extremely excited to find out the play Bella Donna was being staged at the Berkeley Street Theatre around the corner from my apartment. What is Bella Donna about you ask?? Well, set in Renaissance Italy, this semi-historical, semi-fictional play offers a witty and dark but humorous look at the sexual, political and religious intrigues surrounding history’s notorious Lucrezia Borgia.
Set in the early 1500s, where sex and politics and sex and religion go hand and hand (err, ummm, it really hasn’t changed that much since then!!!) Pope Alexander VI (ex Rodrigo Borgia) has just died and left his daughter Lucrezia excommunicated by her father’s Papal successor, Pope Julius II. In other words, no Chez ...:-( *pouts* Lucrezia is on her third husband, Duke Alfonso d'Este, who is having a torrid affair with his young ward Countess Angela di Ghillini (the actress reminded me way too much of Reese Witherspoon), Lucrezia explores her passion with her own young lover, Giovanni (think Italian soccer player…good to look at but not much upstairs!!!), whom she meets while both are in disguise for the new Pope’s celebratory costume ball. Unbeknownst to them, the young soldier, Giovanni, had arduously planned to seek revenge against the scandalous Borgia family under the new Pope’s rule – especially against the very woman whom he now unknowingly is besotted with. (*sigh* I love the word ‘besotted’) What ensues is a string of accidental repercussions that eventually unveil some long-buried secrets but ultimately ends happily ever after…or, well as happily ever after as it can be for a Borgia.
Although very minimal, the set design was rich and sumptuous. Costumes were decent – fitting for what was, I presume, a low budget affair. Cast did a fine job overall but particular accolades to Mimi Mekler who portrayed the (fictional) Sister Bibiana…the stereo-typical naughty nun (NO not that kind of naughty!!! tsk, tsk…shame on you!! Think more like Whoopi Goldberg is Sister Act) who served as a wonderful accomplice for Lucrezia in all her scheming.
The tickets were surprisingly inexpensive - just $25/each… and worth every penny. The play runs until the end of the week. I highly recommend it to anyone who went to Catholic school and had the reputation of being a ‘Catholic school girl’ (you know what I mean!), or got off on history class (not ‘in’ history class…well, on second though, perhaps both), or enjoy period movies like ‘Dangerous Beauty’ or ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ .