note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Carl A. Rossi
Sister Robert Anne … Maryann Zschau
Howard … Frank Gayton
Sister Hubert … Maureen Keiller
Reverend Mother … Delina Christie
Sister Amnesia … Sarah Corey
Pianist … Michael Kreutz
Clarinet/Flute … Mark Margolies; Louis Toth; Kenji Kiruchi; Jeri Sykes
Dan Goggin’s MESHUGGAH-NUNS, which is receiving its Boston premiere at the Lyric Stage, is the fifth pot of coffee dripped through the same NUNSENSE grounds first filtered in the mid-1980s and it’s a pale brew by now; whatever surprise/shock value the original NUNSENSE may have had --- tap-dancing nuns, kick-line nuns, bump-and-grind nuns --- has long since evaporated, yet these NUNS continue to have long legs even if you never see them (the title characters wear the outdated wimples and full-length habits; if you put them in dresses or slacks, you take away the show’s raison d’être). For their latest outing, the Reverend Mother and her sisters are onboard a cruise ship where they help a Jewish actor put on an improvised show for its passengers (i.e., the audience) when his FIDDLER ON THE ROOF cast succumbs to seasickness. There is much (safe) bantering between actor and nuns, (safe) jokes and insights on their respective religions, and their Love Boat drifts on a warm, fuzzy sea. On the night I attended, many in the audience laughed, delightedly --- I kept waiting for zingers such as “What’s black and white and crawls along the ground?”, but they never came. (If you know the answer to that joke and find it funny, you’re on the wrong boat.)
But the show has its moments, thanks to three reliable clowns, Maryann Zschau, Frank Gayton and Maureen Keiller, who know when to milk you for laughs and when to tickle them out of you, and they are bolstered by two newcomers (new to me, anyway), Delina Christie and Sarah Corey; Ms. Corey being a true comic find with her demureness hiding a baby Merman beneath her folds --- together, they are a merry group of hams who’ll steal anything that isn’t nailed down. Further down the road this five-some should do an out-and-out evening of vaudeville, complete with rubber chickens and seltzer bottles, but for now you must settle for Ms. Corey’s magic act, Ms. Christie’s Sophie Tucker impersonation, Mr. Gayton’s agreeable mugging, Ms. Keiller’s gospel wails that work both as parody and as the real thing, Ms. Zschau’s patented brassiness that gives the fluff some bedrock, and, especially, the witty “Three Shayna Maidels” number which Mss. Zschau, Keiller and Corey perform à la the Andrew Sisters --- it’s a number that would work anywhere, regardless of the costume.
At the start of the show, the audience is advised to hold onto their programs as they are destined to become collector’s items, and they may well be --- until the sixth NUNSENSE sequel is dripped. NUNSENSE VI: THE BELLES OF OH, MARY (???).