Need laughs? ‘Nunsense’ answers your prayers
BRAINTREE – We always knew that nuns could handle a classroom of 50 rowdy kids with one hand tied their back.
But who know they could sing, dance, act and tell jokes?
Playwright Dan Goggin knew. He devised the musical “Nunsense,” a huge success off-Broadway that spawned a whole convent full of sequels.
Goggin didn’t have any agenda, and the result is inspired silliness in a habit. Instead of mocking the good sisters, he lifts them up and portrays them as goodhearted, humorous, if often befuddled souls trying their best to do God’s will, no matter what obstacles He might rain down on them.
A show of hands at a recent performance at Curtain Call Theatre found the audience sprinkled liberally with Catholic school grads, but an inside knowledge of the habits (pun intended) of the good sisters isn’t necessary to enjoy “Nunsense.”
Goggin’s plot is merely a clothes hanger on which to hang the individual musical numbers. It seems the Little Sisters of Hoboken are in a terrible fix The cook, Sister Julia Child of God, has botched a batch of vichyssoise and wiped out 52 nuns. The sisters were able to scrape together the money to give 48 a proper burial, but four had to go into the freezer until more money could be raised so they could be defrosted and buried.
The premise is that the parish school’s production of “Grease” has been put on hold so the good sisters can conduct a benefit performance that will allow them to defrost and properly bury the other four sisters.
Goggin sprinkles his good humor The school nurse is, of course, Sister Mary Euthanasia and eventually he’ll include everyone but Sister Mary Rapknuckles, who needs no introduction if you attended parochial school.
The five surviving sisters left to put on the benefit include The Reverend Mother, Sister Mary Regina (Mary Beth Murphy), a no-nonsense General George Patton type, a leader who isn’t keen with the idea of sharing power and is deeply skeptical of the whole idea of putting on the show.
Sister Mary Hubert (Rena Pemper-Rodriguez) is the Rodney Dangerfield of the convent – how can you command respect with a name like Hubert? She is an ambitious second banana whose current job is riding herd on the novices, including sweet young eager-to-please Sister Mary Leo (Nikita DaRosa), who yearns to be known as The Dancing Nun. .
Sister Robert Anne (Christine Kenney) is a street-wise Brooklynite, a little rough around the edge but good-hearted, although she is a handful for the Mother Superior.
At a recent performance there was nary a weak link in the bunch but my favorite was Sister Mary Amnesia, portrayed Kels Ferguson, a nun who is a naive, childlike soul who has lost her memory after an accident. Ferguson combines excellent comic instincts with a strong, clear voice.
The whole effort is led by award-winning director/choreographer David Costa , who has successfully harnessed nunpower in his choreography, which will have the sisters forming a kick line, doing a tap number, and doo-wop group style synchronized movement a la the Four Seasons.
Goggins’ score touches several genres: country and western, pop, doo-wop, and he is not above tugging at our heartstrings as the characters explain how they became women of God.
He gives each of the sisters a time in the spotlight and the entire ensemble joins in for the production numbers; one of the most successful was a gospel/revival number – “Holier Than Thou” – which revved up the audience so much that one excited theater-goer became part of the show.
Danielle Clougher’s music direction provided energetic and enthusiastic accompaniment.
“Nunsense” is not trying to cure cancer, send a message or take a stand. The good sisters are here to entertain. And that they do, winningly while having fun every step of the way.
The Curtain Call Theatre is an intimate venue with a limited number of seats. So you may have to hope there’s an answer to your prayers when you go to get your tickets.
The Curtain Call Theatre production of Dan Goggin’s “Nunsense.” Directed and choreographed by David Costa. Scenic design by Jim Gross. Costume design by Jean Pemper and Rena Pemper-Rodriguez. Lighting design by Mollie MacKenzie. Music direction by Danielle Clougher. Produced by Toni Ruscio. At the Curtain Call Theatre, 182 Commercial St., Braintree, through Nov. 4. Tickets $25 at curtaincallbraintree.org or call 1-866-811-4111.