Bella Donna by David Copelin
After the death of Pope Alexander VI in 1503, his rival and successor, Pope Julius II, excommunicates LUCREZIA BORGIA, the late Pope’s daughter, and her third husband, DUKE ALFONSO D’ESTE of Ferrara.Lucrezia and Alfonso are estranged. He has seduced their willing young ward, COUNTESS ANGELA DiGHILINI. Desperate to have the excommunication lifted, fearful of invasion by the new Pope’s forces and subversion at home, Lucrezia goes to Rome in disguise to confront Pope Julius. At a costume ball in the Vatican, she meets GIOVANNI, a young soldier who does not know who his family is. He has costumed himself as … Lucrezia Borgia! They are wearing the same dress and mask. He has never seen the real Lucrezia. She is intrigued by him.His friend SISTER BIBIANA cautions Giovanni not to risk alienating the Pope. Meanwhile, in disguise, Alfonso and Angela have followed Lucrezia to Rome, where they observe the budding romance between Giovanni and Lucrezia.After winning the prize for Best Costume (as “the two halves of Lucrezia Borgia’s divided soul”), Lucrezia and Giovanni sleep together. Sr. Bibiana finds them and informs Giovanni who his lover really is. Horrified, he insults Lucrezia. But he can’t forget her. He goes to Ferrara and insults her again, in public. Alfonso has him tortured, then forces Lucrezia to poison him. But she gives Giovanni an antidote, and he escapes. His route leads to Angela’s bedroom! Angela threatens to betray him unless he plays a game with her. He lets her win. Smitten, she lets him go.Alfonso is furious and vows revenge. He poisons Sr. Bibiana to force Lucrezia to admit the existence of an antidote, but she has given it all to Giovanni. Sr. Bibiana dies, but not before revealing that Lucrezia’s stillborn baby from 20 years earlier survived! Is it … could it be … Giovanni? Lucrezia prays for clarity.From heaven, Sr. Bibiana reports to us that Alfonso’s insults enraged Pope Julius so much that he had a stroke and died. A new Pope is elected … and the excommunication is lifted.Meanwhile, Giovanni returns to confront Alfonso. They duel but are evenly matched. Giovanni and Angela leave to go to confession. Lucrezia tells Alfonso that she is pregnant. But by whom?
Keywords: Borgia, Renaissance, period, costume drama
Genre: Dark Comedy
Run time: 100 minutes
Suitable for students 16+
Content note: Contains strong language, sexuality
Produced at the Toronto Fringe Festival, July 1995, received Best Play and Patron's Pick. The Toronto Fringe production was followed by several others, both professional and community, in various provinces.
Cast size: 5 actors
Male roles: 2
Female roles: 3
Cover image art by Gerry Porter.