Despite the best attempts of Mother Superior
Mary Regina (played by award-winning actress Kathe Rowe),
there wasn't much serious divinity in the more than two
hours of show. But there were enough laughs in the zany
musical comedy to keep the near-capacity audience awake and
abuzz with laughter until the not-so-bitter end.
Playwright Dan Groggin said his goal was to share
"the humor of the nun" with an audience. To do this, he
centers his script around five quirky sisters from the
Mt. Saint Helens convent of Hoboken, N.J., who find
themselves in a heap of holy trouble.
After Sister Julia Child of God (she's the cook, get
it?) boils up a batch of botulism-laced vichyssoise --
killing 52 of the sisters who eat it -- 48 are buried.
Then the nuns run out of funds, leaving four dead bodies
in the freezer that need to be removed before the health
Enter Mother Superior's idea of holding a
fund-raising variety show. Auditions are held and four
of the remaining sisters are selected to entertain and
raise money for the four funerals.
There's sarcastic Sister Mary Hubert (Debbie Scoones),
street wise Sister Robert Anne (Monica Ewing), forgetful
Sister Mary Amnesia (Patty Sundstrom) and ballet
dancer-wannabe Sister Mary Leo (Hoquiam High School
junior Angela McFadden), who took her name because it
was a shorter version of the word "leotard."
The play begins with (what else?) a game of Bingo
with the entire audience (warning to future audiences:
bring extra 1$ bills) and the first of more than a dozen
song-and-dance routines (all choreographed beautifully
by Sandee Denn, especially the tap number).
From there, the stereotypes of Catholicism, convent
life and, especially, the sisters' eccentric
personalities are tapped for all they're worth.
While all five sisters share the stage much of the
play, each is given her chance to shine solo. The
highlight of these is star-struck Sister Robert Anne's
long-awaited chance to shine in Act II.
Ewing -- a competitive bodybuilder and prison
supervisor in the real world -- makes the most of her
opportunity, belting out "I Just Want to be a Star."
When I became a nun
At a very early age
I had to choose between the convent
And life up on the stage
Fittingly, the scene ends with some masterful
lighting work from Larry Tingwall, as he closes things
down by slowly zooming in on Ewing's face as the stage
fades to black.
Ewing's rendition, which ends with her kneeling on a
bed in prayer, drew the most rousing ovation in an
evening filled with laughter -- much of that thanks to
Scoones' snortingly parenthetical jokes (along with some
nimble footwork), Rowe's comical, drug-induced laughing
fit and Driftwood rookie McFadden's chance to show off
her excellent dance skills (she's a real-life ballerina)
in the "Soup's On (The Dying Nun Ballet)" scene.
While the vocal harmonies were off at times
-- especially when the entire ensemble was on stage -- the
show is well worth the cost of admission.
Mix in a pinch of pressure because it was
the season opener and a dash of stress knowing first-time
Driftwood director and talented musician Bob Neisinger is
peering down on your every move (and lip-syncing your every
lyric) from his perch behind an on-stage drum kit and you've
got a cast that cooks up a winning recipe of divine antics.
And doubles as stagehands, too.
Most importantly, unlike the vichyssoise, it
isn't fatal to the many who will hopefully witness
"Nunsense" at least once during its run.
Let us pry it be so.