Director Ed Shea has taken his 2nd Story Theatre to new heights. We now have an elevator, new comfortable seats, elaborate sets and one of the funniest, irreverent, risqué plays we have seen in many a year: Charles Busch’s “The Divine Sister.”
You enter the theatre listening to songs from “The Sound of Music,” with clips of old nun movies showing on a big screen.
Q: What is going on?
A: Pure madness.
Busch cleverly and lovingly has taken his love for movies about nuns and turned it into a twisted, farcical homage to everything from “The Bells of St. Mary’s” to “Doubt.”
The hilarious plot revolves around St. Veronica’s School and Convent, which is about to be closed due to lack of finances. Mother Superior, played to the hilt by the multi-talented John Michael Richardson, must deal with saving the place while also dealing with her hysterical staff and a series of outlandish circumstances.
The crisp writing is filled with puns, put-downs and a bit of R-rated humor that really didn’t seem so naughty in the hands of the wonderful actors. Still, leave the kids home.
Set designer Trevor Elliott has outdone himself with a triple scene revolving set that also serves as a clever backdrop for a scene where two nuns race through city streets. Ron Cesario has designed outrageous costumes for the rich Jewess atheist, whose money the nuns are after.
Because of limited space and the fact that I don’t want to spoil the fun, which includes a number of twists and turns, I’m not going to give away the whirlwind plot. I’ll just say that every nun has a past, and they are not always who you think they are.
Much of the action revolves around Agnes (Ashley Kenner), a sweet, young postulant who believes she can perform miracles, seeing signs and visions in the most offbeat settings, and undergoing one of the biggest and most bizarre character changes ever seen on stage.
While Richardson rips up the scenery, he is assisted by great performances from veterans Rae Mancini, Margaret Melozzi and Jim Sullivan, all of who have their moments to shine. Janine Weisman brings a dark side to the story, playing a German nun who worships “The Divine Joyce.” Some may call this blasphemous, while we more open-minded folks will catch the fun poked at atheists.
“The Divine Sister” is divine comedy. If you have an open mind and a sense of humor, you will love it. “The Divine Sister” plays through May 20 at 2nd Story Theatre in Warren. Tickets are $25. Call 247-4200 for reservations.