After all these years, the nuns are still funny

`Nunsense' brings sisters back to put on a good show

TheaterReview

February 05, 2004|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

Nunsense, Nunsense II: The Second Coming, Sister Amnesia's Country Western Nunsense Jamboree, Nunsense A-Men!, Nuncrackers, Meshuggah-Nuns, and now, Nunsense - The 20th Anniversary All-Star Tour.

For a show about a celibate religious order, Nunsense has certainly given birth to a host of offspring. The 20th-anniversary edition is in residence at the Lyric Opera House this week and while it might be long-lived, it's still as lightweight as ever.

Consider, for example, the names of some of the offstage members of the fictitious Little Sisters of Hoboken: Sister Julia, Child of God (the convent cook), Sister Mary Euthanasia (the convent nurse) and Sister Mary Myopia (who operates the lights for the show).

Under the direction of Nunsense creator Dan Goggin, the on-stage, all-star nuns are played by five headliners - Kaye Ballard as the Mother Superior, Darlene Love as the second in command, Lee Meriwether as a street-smart sister from Brooklyn, Georgia Engel as a novice who yearns to be the first nun ballerina, and Mimi Hines as Sister Mary Amnesia, who forgot who she was after a crucifix fell on her head (Hines spends much of the evening wandering around looking lost).

The plot - such as it is - remains basically the same. The good sisters are presenting a variety show to raise money to bury members of their order who succumbed to botulism brought on by a batch of Sister Julia's vichyssoise.

Goggin has thrown in updated references to everything from DVD players to Sex and the City, as well as some references to the performers' own histories. "What you gonna be, Miss America?" the Mother Superior asks Meriwether, who is, indeed, a former Miss America. In turn, Ballard's Mother Superior mentions watching an old re-run of The Mothers-in-Law (in which Ballard starred), and at one point Love sings a snippet of one of her biggest hits, "He's a Rebel."

The most amusing bits are Engel performing "The Dying Nun Ballet," in which she re-enacts the accidental food poisoning episode while dancing en pointe in a Flying Nun-style headdress, and Meriwether performing what might be called "Puppetry of the Wimple," in which she twists her veil into shapes that suggest the title character in The Phantom of the Opera, Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard and even Catwoman, Meriwether's character in the 1966 Batman movie.

Other numbers, such as a skit performed by Hines with a nun puppet (Sister Mary Annette, get it?) or a bit about the Mother Superior getting high on a chemical substance confiscated from a student bathroom, cross the line into the inane. And oh yes, there's also a good deal of mild-mannered audience interaction.

The material never rises above parochial school humor, but that also means it's fairly tame, albeit corny, hokey and downright silly. The title pretty much says it all: Nunsense is nonsense about nuns. Who'da thunk it'd still be spreading the good word two decades later?

Nunsense

Where: Lyric Opera House, 140 W. Mount Royal Ave.

When: 8 p.m. tonight-Saturday and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, with matinees at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Tickets: $20-$55

Call: 866-597-4200

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