Review by Tulis McCall
(21 Jun 2010)
What a delightful piece of fluff this is and perfect, not only for us jaded New Yorkers, but for the Bridge and Tunnel crowd, who were in serious attendance last night. There are real Catholics who live on the other side of our rivers. I wondered where they were.
This production of Nunsense is a celebration of the 25th Anniversary of this show. I remember when it first appeared downtown at the Duplex. I never saw it then when it was practically right next door to my apartment. Now that I live in Harlem of COURSE I schlep down to the Village.
This is sort of one long vaudeville routine, but this one is safe for family viewing. The Little Sisters of Hoboken have just suffered a loss to the tune of 52 nuns falling over dead into their soup – a vichyssoise prepared by Sister Julia, Child of God. They were able to raise the enough money to bury them all, but at the last minute the Reverend Mother (Bonnie Lee) succumbed to desire and bought a plasma TV for the convent. Thus, four of the departed nuns remain above ground and frozen in the convent’s freezer. The purpose of the event we are watching is to raise the funds necessary to thaw the unfortunate quartet and get them into the ground before the health inspector discovers the stored goods and closes the convent down.
We are talking THIN material here folks. But that is not really the point. The point is that what might be light hearted entertainment, when delivered by a team of your regular garden variety actors, is downright hilarious when it is being delivered by a bunch of nuns wearing those old fashioned habits. Even the time of day is funny. And THAT is the rock bottom line on Nunsense, as well as the five other productions it has spawned: Nuns, unlike many some of us remember, in “the habit” of being funny. To judge from its track record (8,000 productions world wide, grosses of more than $500 million), this is one gamble that has paid off big time for its creator, Dan Goggin.
The assembled cast for this show range from seasoned Nunsense cast members – Bonnie Lee, Bambi Jones (Sister Mary Hubert) and Jeanne M. Tinker (Sister Amnesia) to newcomers Maria Montana (Sister Robert Anne), who is a dead ringer for Cherry Lane’s Artistic Director Angelina Fiordellisi, and Stephanie Wahl (Sister Mary Leo). These ladies range in size from diminutive to robust and possess vocal and comic talents that run the gamut as well. Individually they may be a tad unevenly matched, but together they are a force to reckon with.
Sister Amnesia, perhaps the most winning and winsome of the characters, is struggling with remembering who she is and almost anything else she can, or can’t, think of. Sister Robert Anne is from Canarsie, and all she wants, other than a few laughs while serving the Lord, is the chance to make a splash in a big way on stage, any stage. Sister Mary Hubert is the second in command and is busy figuring out how she can pray for the top job without sinning her tuchas off from the get go. Sister Mary Leo is the resident dancing novitiate and is busy memorizing the do’s and the do not’s and in general just trying to go with the flow. Heading up the merry band is the Reverend Mother who was brought up in the circus and has, therefore, the requisite training to manager her brood, with the exception of her occasional lapses into recreational drugs.
The upshot of the evening is that these ladies take entertaining us, with the hopes of a cash reward, very seriously. No moment is left idle, no joke unexamined, no harmony unsung, no plight un-prayed for. They have earned the right to be “Holier than Thou,” but they would rather tackle your soul with a few she-bops and a two-step.
This is a little vacation from the chaos that is going on out there in the world or between your ears. Nunsense is an invitation to hand over the wheel to these eager servants of the Lord and let them give you a couple of hours of silly, sentimental and sublime entertainment. No fuss, no muss, no complications - just entertainment with staying power that, you should pardon the expression, goes down easy. Just the way it’s been doing for 25 years.