Glory to God in the highest and peace to those Nuns who have taken over St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Riverdale, Maryland. (Generously sponsored by the Wolf Pack Theatre Company and Directed by William Dean Leary, this comedic production of Nunsense benefits Bountiful Blessings and Men Against Breast Cancer) According to Reverend Mother, the sisters were originally going to use the Spanish church across the street from St. John’s for their fundraiser BUT due to a language barrier, and Reverend Mother using some wrong words in Spanish, the Little Sisters of Riverdale got kicked out of that church.
St. John’s was gracious enough to open their doors for the sisters so that they could have their fundraiser. Not only has St. John’s opened their doors, but opened their sanctuary for the nuns to perform right up on the altar. I couldn’t think of a more perfect place for such hysterical show. Ill never be able to see this show again in an ordinary theatre space.
The show begins with six Little Sisters on stage singing and dancing to “Nunsense is Habit Forming” and getting the crowd excited for each of the Little Sisters solo acts. As the show goes along, more drama develops between each of the sisters’ performances. Sister Mary Leo, played by Joanna Matthews, represented the Nun who loves to dance. Vocals may not be Ms. Matthews’ strong suite, but comedic timing and dancing on the altar in a Bollywood skirt makes up for it. I never imagined I would see a nun in a bedazzled skirt dancing on the altar but dreams do come true!
Sister Amnesia, played by Brigid K. Lally, is the interesting character in the show. Sister Amnesia doesn’t remember her name because a crucifix fell on her head. She has several entertaining scenes and during the one scene I raised my hand because she asked if anyone was Catholic in the audience. And no, I was not stoned by the Lutherans sitting around me. She asked me a question and I got the answer right, so I received at St. Dymphna card and some bubble blowing fluid. For anyone that doesn’t know, St. Dymphna is the patron saint of stress and mental health issues. Sister Amnesia said that if I feel like I’m going crazy to blow bubbles because that will help. Ms. Lally has a rather pleasing soprano voice and fantastic comedic timing, which is important because she is the funniest character in the show.
Reverend Mother Sister Mary Regina, played by Jaime Crown, and Sister Robert Anne have a small battle going on between them for most of the show. Sister Robert Anne, played by Francine Joyce Kent, wants to have a part in the fundraiser but Reverend Mother won’t let her because Sister Robert Anne is a bit of a wild nun.
When the opportunity arises for Robert Anne to go on she sings one of my favorite songs not only in the show, but in any musical theatre piece. Her version of “Growing Up Catholic” was very touching and the background vocals of the other sisters added a nice touch. And Sister Mary Myopia (Dannielle Beitzell) made great use of the spot light during this number.
The shining moment for Reverend Mother was when she brought down the first act by trying an inhalant that was found by Sister Robert Anne. I am sure that no altar in all of Christian history as ever seen such a ruckus. This scene is worth the price of admission. I might have been mistaken for a Pentecostal because I almost fell out of the pew I was laughing so hard. Jaime Crown does a magnificent job of being the leader of the pack.
Sister Mary Hubert, played by Linda Whiting, brings down the show with a holy rollin’ gospel number called “Holier Than Thou.” Ms. Whiting has a smooth soulful voice and also brings her own comedic touch to the role. I know if my church had more voices like hers growing up, I would have gone to mass more often.
And one must not forget Sister Julia, Child of God, played by Melanie Pino-Elliott. The reason the Little Sisters have to put on this fundraiser is because Sister Julia poisoned all but 19 nuns back at the convent. In all other productions of Nunsense that I have seen, Sister Julia is only talked about. She isn’t ever a real person on the stage. I thoroughly enjoyed having a sixth nun in this production. Even though Sister Julia doesn’t have a song, her speaking voice is fantastic. I’m not sure if it was a directorial choice to have her sound I bit like Julia Child’s voice or if that is her real voice, but either way, it works in her favor.
It’s time to skip putting money in the collection plate at your church this Sunday and put it towards helping the Little Sisters of Riverdale and their fundraising endeavors. As a matter of fact, tell your priest, pastor, bishop, and even your rabbi to have services with the Little Sisters of Riverdale this week. You might get more out of this production of Nunsense than any sermon being preached. Peace be with you and the cast of Nunsense at Wolf Pack Theatre Company and St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission
Nunsense plays through April 19, 2015 at Wolf Pack Theatre Company playing at the St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church— 5820 Riverdale Road in Riverdale, MD. For tickets call (240) 271-5471 or purchase them online.