Driftwood Players

"Meshuggah-Nuns" Sept. - Oct. 2006

By Dan Goggin, Directed by Robert Neisinger

Front: Monica Ewing: (Sister Robert Anne) Angela McFadden: (Melody Joy Leopoedis) Patty Sundstrom: (Sister Amnesia)
Rear:  Kathe Rowe: (Rev.Mother Regina) Gary Morean: (Howard Liszt) Debbie Scoones: (Sister Hubert)

Robert Neisinger (Percussion) Roberta Cleland (Piano) Beth Ginther (Flute & Keyboards) Andy Hall (Reeds)

Pictures by: Keith Krueger

From The Daily World/Preview Friday September 29, 2006

Nuns bring energy to stage
By Callie White
Daily World Writer

    With four previous incarnations of Catholic-inflected schtick, perhaps it was inevitable that the Little Sisters of Hoboken would have to reach for their Jewish roots -- not the Jewish carpenter and his mother who are central to the faith -- but the Borscht Belt song-and-dance routines that the "Nunsense" shows derive inspiration from.

    In "Meshuggah-Nuns!," currently in production by the Driftwood Players, the four convent dwellers of the previous "Nunsense" shows have hit the open seas on a "Faith of all Nations" cruise, only to find that most of the cast of that night's entertainment -- "Fiddler on the Roof" -- have come down with seasickness.

    The nuns, along with the one remaining well castmember, a would-be Tevye, have to save the day with an improvised, ecumenical show.

    Like the title (Literally, it means "crazy nuns") implies, "Meshuggah-Nuns!" is laden with puns and corny humor ("Did you hear about the fish that swam into a concrete wall? He said, 'Dam!' " is only one of the knee-slappers, and possibly the raciest of the bunch). It's heavy-handed comedy delivered with a light, breezy touch by Driftwood's able players.

    The actors who play the nuns, Kathe Rowe as the good-humored but imperious Mother Superior, Debbie Scoones as the schemer Sister Mary Hubert, Monica Ewing as punchy, street-smart Sister Robert Anne and Patty Sundstrom as daffy but sweet Sister Amnesia, each take on their roles with gusto.

    As Howard Liszt, the only Jew -- and the only man -- Gary Morean has to take turns playing straight man to the nuns' routines and then becoming the wacky one when he's in center stage.

    On the fringes, Angela McFadden plays the ultra-perky Melody Joy Leopoedis, cruise director, keeping the show moving along.

    The whole cast really captures the "Lets make some costumes and put on a show!" mentality of an earlier age, and all bring a practiced show-biz energy to the stage.

    At its best, "Meshuggah-Nins!" cleverly finds common ground between the Jewish and Catholic faiths.

    Its funniest number, "Contrition," a take-off on Fiddler's" "Tradition," plumps guilt, famous for its pervasiveness among practitioners of both religions.

    It also has a cute number about nuns using Yiddish and "Matzo Man," where the campiness of the Village People meets the corniness of the nuns.

    There are also some confusing moments, including a couple of tame burlesque numbers, but the underlying charm and gentleness of the show suffuses even a scene of a nun being eaten by a giant squid.

    If the actors are all incredibly game and energetic, it's because they have to be.

    Director Robert Neisinger, with assistant director Nancy Neisinger, and choreographer Sandee Denn have the cast hopping around the stage in dance numbers that must have the women dripping sweat under their all-concealing habits.

    From polka to a bottle dance to chorus line kicks, the actors leap, spin and even cartwheel their way around the limited space, bursting with energy even during a weekend matinee on a warm day.

    Luckily, the actors were not performing in a vacuum. The house was quite full on Sunday afternoon, responsive to the humor and appreciative of all the music.

    One thing "Meshuggah-Nuns!" does unintentionally is show the link between religion and community theater.

    Both the actions of making something for people to enjoy and showing up to show how appreciated those entertainments are could be considered "mitzvot," which is a Hebrew word that informally means "good deeds," Certainly on Sunday afternoon the Driftwood Players and the audience did their part.

    "Meshuggah-Nuns!" runs through Oct. 8, with Friday and Saturday curtains at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday curtain at 1:30 p.m. The theater is located on West Third and I streets in Aberdeen.

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