by Dalt Wonk
Hell’s Belles, currently on the boards at the Mid-City Theatre, is an antebellum Southern Gothic tale, but you’re more likely to come across a harlot than a Scarlett at this Tara.
The French Finishing School for Little Confederate Women, where Hell’s Belles takes place, was dreamed up and populated by Running with Scissors. Maj. Ashley Wood (Jack Long), a wounded Union soldier, is discovered by one of the belles while gathering mushrooms.
The belle and Maj. Wood do some smooching, and she helps him to the finishing school, where he can be treated. Wounded or not, Maj. Wood is now the fox in the hen house. Much of the tale concerns the students’ and teachers’ attempts “to get their hands on” Maj. Wood, and that sort of double entendre accounts for much of the show’s humor.
The school is an old plantation house fitted with upper-crust finery, including a piano and a chaise longue. Flossie French (Brian Peterson) is the headmistress and owner. Her wheelchair-bound sister Fannie (Yvette Hargis) disputes her ownership, and when Flossie gets irritated with Fannie, she sends her rolling into the wings with a swift shove.
The student body (Lisa Picone, Kyle Daigrepont and Dorian Rush) grudgingly obey the tyrannical Flossie but continue flirting with Maj. Wood. At one point, the headmistress briefly interrupts heavy petting with the Yankee and becomes enraged when one of her students takes her place. She ferociously beats Maj. Wood with her cane, and then to save his life, amputates his leg with an axe.
The humor is both outrageous and funny. Richard Read and the cast wrote the script. Lynn Walker provided the costumes. Brian Peterson is credited with fashioning the “wiglets.” Su Gonczy handled the excellent sound and lighting.
Through June 23
8 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; 6 p.m. Sun.
Mid-City Theatre, 3540 Toulouse St., (504) 488-1460