Review: Sister Mary's Late Night Catechism inventive, interactive
Mar 03, 2013 (Reading Eagle - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
By Stephanie Caltagirone
Reading Eagle correspondent
With her tongue firmly planted in her cheek, "Sister" Mary Zentmyer brought "Late Nite Catechism" to Reading for a one-night stand at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center.
The inventive, interactive comedy is dependent on Zentmyer's quick wit and her ability to improvise, combined with a funny book by playwrights Maripat Donovan and Vicki Quade.
The audience willingly becomes Sister Mary's class for the night and while some earn prizes for being good students, others earn harsh looks and nicknames such as Tardy Boy and Nancy Drew.
The show takes a lovingly jaundiced look at the Catholic school experience, and nothing is sacred.
Topics of discussion range from the saints to Vatican II to Cain and Abel. There's a joke at every turn, whether it's at the expense of Catholics, Protestant or Lutherans.
But the show really hinges on Zentmyer's comic abilities.
Her characterization is hilarious and her timing is perfect. I think it helps that she's been with the show for several years and knows it inside and out.
Getting the audience involved is an integral part. Zentmyer chooses two men to help her up and down the stairs, chastises a couple for coming late and makes a foursome who also arrived late sit in the front of the "class."
She tells one man to get a haircut because it's touching his collar. Another must stand with his nose touching the chalkboard because he happens to be Lutheran, or "Catholic Light."
She collects several dollar bills for the "pagan baby fund" and gives out cards of the recently retired pope because she's trying to get rid of them.
The show pokes fun at Catholic traditions such as raffles ("If it wasn't nailed down, we raffled it"), turning the altar to face the congregation ("like a cooking show") and saints (playing the game "Saint or Not A Saint").
When she believes an audience member is showing too much cleavage, she whips out a hanky and covers it.
A discussion of the stigmata turns into an impromptu Macarena and she explains that God is Irish because he goes out drinking with his buddies every night and his mother thinks he walks on water.
Zentmyer manages to make every comment seem off the cuff, even when you know it's been scripted. And it makes unscripted moments, including one intrepid audience member who dares to tell Sister Mary that CCD stands for Cool Catholic Dudes, that much more amusing.
Bits such as the story of St. Simon Stylites, the patron saint of pole sitters, and a tossed-off one liner about having Irish Alzheimer's -- she forgets everything but the grudges -- are genuinely funny, whether you're Catholic or not.
While the second act does drag a little bit, the discussions about Cain and Abel and the four (now three, because Catholics don't believe in limbo anymore) places you can go to after death resonate.
Even if you're not of a certain religion, "Late Nite Catechism" may just make you a convert-at least for a night.
Contact Stephanie Caltagirone: email@example.com
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