Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Meshuggah-Nuns" & "Kringle Cult"

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note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Beverly Creasey

Naughty and Nice

Reviewed by Beverly Creasey

Tis the season…for fruitcakes, plum puddings and custard pies? I don’t know about you but I can’t recall another Christmas where so many pies have become airborne in the name of good cheer. Pies in the face at Lyric Stage and pies in the face at Theatre Works. Who knew Christmas was synonymous with a face full of whipped cream.

Obviously Dan Goggin knew (His MESHUGGAH-NUNS! is actually the best of the NUNSENSE series) and John Kuntz knew (His wicked KRINGLE KULT caper cuts up Santa’s workshop with a machete).

Of the two, the Lyric’s offering is the tamer, with that incorrigible covey of convent escapees mixing it up with FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. (Don’t ask.) Suffice it to say, some of the comedy slogs like too many eggnogs and some soars (like the plastic milk bottle version of the FIDDLER bottle dance).

Never has a knee complaint (during the aforementioned bottle balancing) been so hilarious and Maureen Keiller gets a rock ‘em sock ‘em “Rock the Boat” number, too. Director Carolyn Droscoski’s cast handles the ever so lightweight material most deftly.

Sarah Corey could illuminate the Radio City marquee all by herself. Why haven’t we seen more of her? She’s a treasure. Maryann Zschau gives her usual charismatic performance (and an operatic high “C”) whether it’s Shakespeare or shlock. (I didn’t say this was shlock. Far be it from me to kvetch about any ecumenical effort in these troubled times.)

MESHUGGAH-NUNS! has some smart Andrews Sisters harmony a la “Bei Mir bist du Schon”(Kudos to musical director Michael Kreutz) and my very favorite moment, unscripted, I think, when the gouda got away from Reverend Mother Delina Christie. Frank Gayton manages to maintain his dignity (as a transplanted Tevye) despite the onslaught of catholic chutzpah.

Now if you like your comedy a lot rougher around the edges, you might like John Kuntz’ ode to mass hysteria, MY LIFE WITH THE KRINGLE KULT. Before I even attempt to describe this plot, I must declare that Laura Napoli is a Christmas gift all by herself. She’s adorable. She’s wacky. She’s an elf and if you don’t sing along with her, you’re as mean as Rick Park’s bleached blonde Baroness Poodle Doodle (I didn’t quite catch her name, the twelve times it was announced.)

Kuntz’ dizzy ride through a demonic Santaland has the audience signing on as elves (Don’t give your real name when they hand you the contract) to serve a greedy, lustful Big Brother of a Santa who presides over group weddings like an Antarctic Reverend Moon. Kuntz’ social commentary is engulfed, and sometimes like the plot, submerged in off the wall (often off the ceiling) tangents and reverses, most of which are funny…some of which are tasteless…some of which are incomprehensible. He seems to have taken a page (or was that a Page Turner) out of Ryan Landry’s book, not that I disapprove, mind you. I just don’t think he needed to, to make hay out of reindeer fodder.

Dani Snyder must have had a ball directing this free-for-all. Rick Park in gold, five inch high Manolo Blaniks, talking into his handbag, is fully worth the price of admission. Peculiarly, Kuntz gave himself the least manic role of the three, not that he doesn’t get a workout. And it isn’t easy in those upturned, tight little shoes.

All I can say is that I don’t want to be there on Christmas eve when the real Santa gives his review.

"My Life with The Kringle Kult" (28 November - 13 December)
Boston Center for The Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (617)426-ARTS
"Meshuggah-Nuns! The Ecumenical Nunsense" (28 November-27 December)
140 Clarendon Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 437-7172

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide