Friday, April 22, 2011

New York, April 2011 - Day Eight, "The Divine Sister"

Here’s today’s reason for keeping my review brief: you’re never going to be able to see this show. It closes May 1, won’t likely move anywhere, and even if it does, the experience wouldn’t be the same without writer/star Charles Busch.

Charles Busch, if you don’t already know, is one of New York’s top playwrights/performers. I started to write “he’s best known for his drag shows, such as “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom,” “Die, Mommie, Die!” and “Shanghai Moon.” But he’s also well-known as the author of “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife,” which ran for over a year on Broadway and was nominated for a Tony for best play. Either way, he’s a talent.

“The Divine Sister” is one of the drag shows. It’s Busch’s send-up of any movie or play ever made about (or including) nuns, from "Song of Bernadette" to “The Trouble With Angels” to “Agnes of God” to “Doubt.” Busch plays the Mother Superior of St. Veronica’s School and Convent, which is on the verge of having to close. Will she be able to persuade the local rich “jewess” to sign over her mansion as a new school building? Does the new postulant really have the power to heal? Will Mother Superior’s life before entering the convent come back to haunt her? And what’s going on with the severe nun visiting from Berlin?

All is revealed, of course, in a very plot heavy, slightly absurd comedy. It’s not a great production, but it’s way off-Broadway and it’s not trying to be something it’s not, so I’ll cut it a lot of slack. It’s a good time, life lessons/politics only intrude once or twice in the show (“We live in a world that’s changing.” Pause. “We’ll have to see what we can do about that!”) the performers are great (so damn much talent in New York!) and Busch put in some terrific lines – and not just for his character. The one that is sticking with me, though, plays to my inner sixth-grader: Mother Superior is counseling Sister Acacius and says, “What is it you can’t face?” But she pronounces “can’t” with a very British accent and Sister Acacius thinks…well, you can guess what she thinks. “Did you just call me…?” Then it becomes a callback throughout the show and gets a laugh every time.

Campy fun, and if it came to a community theater near you, you’d probably have a good time.

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