“Let me tell you a story. My mother was a very white, very blonde, very blue-eyed Englishwoman. My father was a beautiful dark-skinned black man with gorgeous, gleaming white teeth. Imagine Maggie Smith getting together with Shaft.” So begins the story of Bellina in “Confessions of a Mulatto Love Child,” a funny, heartfelt tale about a young woman’s search for identity in the shadow of her larger-than-life mother.
Bellina is writer and actress Bellina Logan, whom you might have seen as Fiona in the FX series “Sons of Anarchy.” In her autobiographical play, she talks about growing up as a mixed-race child in the 1960s when it was still considered taboo.
Bellina’s parents Averil and Vantile meet in Los Angeles at the Actor’s Studio during the 1960s, and although they have a child together, they decide not to marry. Her mother Averil was married twice before, and besides, the two of them don’t seem to agree on anything. According to Bellina’s mother, the couple broke up because “one liked to sleep with the TV on, and the other one liked to sleep with the TV off.” Baby Bellina is kept a secret from their families and friends, even from Averil’s two older daughters. When the baby is finally brought home, she becomes a “caramel-colored conversation piece,” a show-and-tell moneymaker for her blonde older sister. As Bellina gets old enough to recognize that her appearance is different than her sisters’, her mother gives a simple explanation by pouring cream into a cup of black coffee. This becomes young Bellina’s first official conversation about race.
A few years later, Averil attempts to marry a third time, but finds herself in an abusive relationship. Rather than stay in a bad situation she gathers her three daughters and sets off on her own as a single mother. “Come, Bellina,” she says, “give me your little hand.” And they’re off; following Averil as she relocates the family from Los Angeles to New York to London, and even Ibiza; all within a span of ten years. She finally settles in New York City, so that Bellina can finish high school. Averil makes the city her permanent home.
Averil is a funny, free-spirited, irreverent woman who raises Bellina with a little help from her friends. Throughout their adventures, she dances to songs like “I Will Survive,” soothes her daughter with elaborate bedtime stories, and tells her to “remember her life.” Averil’s favorite wise-cracking sidekick is Betty, the nanny who has been with the family for years. She is described as a blend of Bette Davis and Angela Lansbury. Betty prefers songs by ABBA, and acts as Averil’s grounding force. These characters and at least ten others are portrayed by the show’s writer and creator. Ms. Logan is an avid storyteller and mimic who seamlessly shape-shifts from one character to another. Her use of accents and dialects give each character a unique voice.
Throughout the story we are hooked on Averil’s antics. A new bed-and-breakfast business operated from her townhouse; her rescue of two feral cats Charlotte and Emily, named after the Bronte sisters; and a dramatic run-in with a rude customer at a New York City grocery store.
Bellina grows up and moves to Los Angeles to pursue her own dreams and start her own family. Over the years, mother and daughter remain close. Then, in a tragic twist of fate, Averil begins to lose track of time and space, and the veil of dementia descends. Now Bellina must live bi-coastally, as she tries to figure out the best plan of action for her mother’s care. She finally moves her mother to Los Angeles, with a live-in caretaker, and when the disease progresses, she moves Averil into an assisted living facility for long-term care. As memory and personality fade, the roles of mother and daughter are reversed; now Bellina reaches for Averil’s little hand. “Remember your life,” Bellina gently reminds us. And thanks to this poignant mother/daughter love story, we will never forget.
“CONFESSIONS OF A MULATTO LOVE CHILD” Written and Performed by Bellina Logan Oct. 3 at 3:30pm, Oct. 25 at 9pm, an extra show will be added soon! Director: Maggie Soboil Photo: courtesy of the production United Solo 2018 Theatre Row 410 West 42nd Street New York City
KIA STANDARD is a writer and musical theater performer, who has appeared in regional and international productions of “West Side Story,” “The King and I”, “Little Shop of Horrors,” and “Bubbling Brown Sugar.” She received an MA in Creative Writing/Nonfiction from The Johns Hopkins University, and has published articles and profiles for various talent magazines. Ms. Standard is currently working as a musical playwright.