THEATRE REVIEW: “Confessions of a Mulatto Love Child” Receives a Well Deserved Standing Ovation

The one and only Isabella Rossellini with former Director of Development & Public Affairs Scot Patrick Allan and Bellina Logan at the Mama Farm in Bellport.
Photo by Cindi Sansone-Braff.

On Mother’s Day, The Gateway Playhouse hosted a fundraiser for the theater and Isabella Rossellini’s Mama Farm in Bellport. This much-anticipated event began with Rossellini, the multi-talented model, actress, filmmaker, writer, producer, director, and animal behaviorist, taking center stage. Just her mere presence elicited a big round of applause. A moment later, in a tribute to her three-time Academy Award-winning mother, Ingrid Bergman, and to all mothers everywhere past, present, and still to come, she recited some new lyrics she wrote to a jazz song by Herman Hupfeld, “As Time Goes By.”

This song became a big hit after being featured in the 1942 film “Casablanca,” the classic movie in which her mother starred. Rossellini’s well-conceived lyrics, especially the line “the world will always welcome mothers as time goes by,” resonated with the audience and started the afternoon on an upbeat note.

Laura Dern, an Emmy, Golden Globe, Critics Choice, BAFTA, and Academy Award-winning actress, was the cohost of this event. Unfortunately, she could not attend in person since she was on a movie shoot in Florence, Italy. Still, she did make an appearance via a big onstage screen and shared her enthusiasm for The Gateway, Mama Farm, and the one-woman play we were about to see.

“Confessions of a Mulatto Love Child” is a ninety-minute autobiographical dramedy starring Bellina Logan and directed by the talented Maggie Soboil. This one-act play, billed as an “inappropriate over-share of a codependent biracial child’s life with her acerbic English mother and the deep bond they forge,” held the audience spellbound throughout. This fast-paced show is nothing short of an Olympic feat for Logan since she portrays 18 diverse characters ranging from herself at varying stages of her life to her father,  mother, neighbors, store clerks, friends, and health aides, to name just a few.

Picture a bare-bones set, two chairs, a table, Logan dressed in street clothes, simple lighting, a few sound effects, and several carefully chosen songs like “My Funny Valentine” and “I Will Survive.”

Amidst this simplicity, pure theatrical magic explodes as Logan, a woman capable of mutating from one character to the next in the blink of an eye, tells her riveting tale. This play, a string of anecdotes, memories, and stories, starts with her conception and continues through childhood and adulthood as Logan lovingly, honestly, and humorously recounts her life with her mother, a gifted actress, writer, and painter.

“Confessions of a Mulatto Love Child” opens and closes with the same lines: “Let me tell you a story. My mother is very white, very blonde, very blue-eyed and very English. Imagine Maggie Smith. Now, imagine Maggie Smith getting together with Shaft.” The first time she delivered those lines, I laughed. The second time, as the lights slowly faded, I wept.

As time goes by, we realize that Logan was not only a biracial child, but she was bicoastal as well, since her ever irascible and easily irritated mom continually uprooted her back and forth from New York to Los Angeles with a short stint in London thrown in for good measure. We also learn that her mother was married three times, although never to Logan’s father.

This one-act, one-actor play covers a wide range of topics and scans a massive emotional landscape. Birth, death, weddings, aging, sex, WWII and Winston Churchill, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., yoga, Buddhism, and feral cats are just a few of the subjects that come to light as Logan dances, grimaces, sings, sulks, and struts across the stage.

Although hilariously funny at times, the play takes a sad turn as the harsh realities of life hit home. It was heartrending to watch Logan grapple with the tremendous responsibility of caring for her mother, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Our hearts break for Logan when she must sell her mother’s New York City home, move her to a small apartment in Los Angeles, and eventually put her into an assisted living facility.

It is a shame that this play only had a one day run at The Gateway, but it satisfied its mandate to raise funds for Mama Farm, which was the goal.

Ultimately, this show and the afterparty down the road at Mama Farm were a heartwarming way to spend Mother’s Day. The crowd at the farm got to mingle and have a photo op with Rossellini and Logan.