I know a lot of nun jokes, but it’s not too often that you hear a nun tell them.
But that’s what’s happening in Late Nite Catechism, Vicki Quade and Maripat Donovan’s Catholic school entertainment, in session at Proctors GE Theater now through Sunday. Do yourself a favor and avoid having to donate a dollar to the “pagan babies’ fund” by showing up on time, sitting up straight and, whatever you do, don’t be caught chewing gum.
A combination of religious instruction, audience interaction and game-show antics, the evening is a wildly witty and slightly scary encounter with the myths and realities of Catholicism. More of an improv-scripted hybrid than standard play, Late Nite Catechism takes place during an adult late-night catechism class at St. Bruno’s (the patron saint of possessed people) Catholic School, where the audience members are the pupils of a nameless sister.
As Sister takes us through a quick review of Catholic doctrine, stories of saints and the Church before Vatican II, she calls on the class to answer her catechism questions. Rewards of glow-in-the-dark rosaries, laminated holy cards or statues of the Blessed Virgin are offered for the correct answers; a sour face and a word of warning lie in wait for the wrong.
Late Nite Catechism
WHERE: Proctors Theater, 431 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: Through March 21
HOW MUCH: $39.50–$45
MORE INFO: 346-6204 or www.proctors.org
Whether discussing the fate of unbaptized babies, discovering that the Blessed Virgin was a “winter” because she wears blue so well or a quick game of “Saint — Not a Saint,” the evening faultlessly entertains, amuses and educates while transporting the faithful back to a time and place where a metal-edged ruler was the weapon of wisdom.
In the classroom setting of the evening, complete with a picture of “our finest Catholic president,” Sister reminds us to remember the dangers of the faithless, offers a thorough explanation of heaven and hell which leaves no one in limbo and shows us Christian handiwork on her carpentry project that even Jesus would find questionable.
If nuns received tenure, actress Colleen Moore should be so rewarded. In a comic tour de force, Moore wanders through the chalk dust, balancing a performance devoid of stereotype while creating a standup comic in a wimple. During the Q&A segment of the evening where the class can ask Sister their most vexing Catholic queries (brave, brave nun), Moore deftly answers questions of the religious culture with an ease and expertise that is not only impressive but outright hysterical.
Stories of saints
As the proffered names of audience members trigger stories of the saints, all the odd, grotesque biographies come dramatically forward in graphic detail, followed by a pleased and knowing smile.
Running up and down the aisles of her class, handing out prizes for the good students and discipline for the bad, Moore never panders and offers a portrayal of which the Vatican could approve. And as there is so much give and take between audience and actress, it is quite clear that every performance will be slightly different, which just adds to the fun.
While attending Late Nite Catechism doesn’t excuse you from attending Mass, it most certainly will assist you with inspiration to fulfill your Easter Duty.