Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Great Bad Habits

Shoebox, hat box, store front, sardine can?  All the names of little theatre spaces that have popped up in Los Angeles come to mind as we are shoe horned into the Ruskin at the Santa Monica Airport.  This is the heart of what theatre, to me, is all about.  
Most of what I know about Catholic nuns has been through art and theatre and the movies.  Christopher Durang's "Sister Ignatius Explains it All for You" went up with "The Actor's Nightmare" years ago and that was a revelation. Amy Adams and ever lovin' Meryl Streep cast "Doubt" into the world while Whoopi Goldberg rocked "Sister Act."  The only nun I ever met was Corita Kent after she had left Immaculate Heart and her world of teaching. She may have been a living saint.  In Stephen Mazur's mostly comic play the nuns are real people, each with a story.
Alley Mills, Jacquelin Lorraine Schofield, Jacquelynne Fontaine, Mouchette van Helsdingen, Lee Garlington                               Photo by Ed Krieger
When we meet Sister Helga ( Mouchette van Helsdingen), Sister Anthea (Jacquelin Lorraine Schofield), Sister Maggie (Lee Garlington), Sister Claire (Jacquelynne Fontaine) and the Mother Superior (Alley Mills) at St. Cyril's the atmosphere is a bit relaxed (after the business with the snakes or the gas or whatever it was), but the stereotypes still ring true with a twist.  The Sisters are a mixed bag: a little nip, a little drag, a smartypants, a musician living and teaching in  a convent in trouble. 

The elementary school that the nuns maintain is in a dicey part of town.  Planning for a Christmas Pageant is on the docket but the diocese isn't much interested in forking over funds to help keep the school alive. 

In a very episodic trip from the convent to  the office of the spunky old bishop, Father Theodore (if Meryl is "everlovin'" Orson Bean is double that with a twist!) who loves the bread baked by St. Cyril's nuns daily but is not inclined to be of much help. 

Mazur's episodic script includes a few too many short scenes and an intermission. Reducing some of the 'olios' that feature cute character exposition and just getting the story told with no intermission may keep the narrative rolling.

It's a dark and stormy night when Maria (Heaven sent Kelsey Griswold) collapses at the door of the convent and melds into the Christmas plot slightly predictably She has the voice of an angel and becomes the catalyst for dealing with the cranky old bishop. 

With movie and television credits, Mazur's story is apt and fun with audience participation whether we want to or not, which may be a Catholic tradition.  Every character has a personal story to tell and the result is a charming couple of hours with a Christmas surprise.  Of course, heading out to the Santa Monica Airport is worth the journey that will send an audience into the night with a smile and a huge laugh as it all resolves, including the curtain call.
Alley Mills and Orson Bean Photo by Ed Krieger

Full   disclosure. I met Orson Bean years ago and have loved his stories and his hundreds of appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.. and maybe Jay Leno.  With his wife, Alley Mills, the two of them banter like anything as the Mother Superior and Father Theodore lock horns.  This charming couple ignites the evening.
Friday, February 7, 2020
It is with great sadness that I learned that Orson Bean has died just outside the Pacific Resident Theatre in Venice. He was quintessenntially unique, present, funny and kind.  At the age of 91, he and Alley closed this show they helped to produce just two weeks ago.  Sincere condolences to all who knew him.  Flights of Angels..

BAD HABITS by Stephen Mazur
A World Premiere
Directed by Mike Reilly 
Opening at 8pm on Friday, November22, 2019  8PM Fridays and Saturdays 
 2pm on Sundays
Through January 26, 2020
 (No performances Nov 29 & 30; Dec 27 -Dec 29,2019;Jan3 -Jan 5,2020) 
Ruskin Group Theatre
 3000 Airport Avenue
 Santa Monica, CA 90405
Tickets and Information:  
(310) 397 3244


No comments:

Post a Comment