Litany of Laughs: Players ‘Nunsense’ blessed with stellar cast

As unlikely as it may seem to some of us who went to Catholic schools in the 1950s and 1960s, nuns can be
loads of fun.
The ever-popular comic revue “Nunsense” has proved that both in its original form, which has gotten some
updating by creator Dan Goggin, and later iterations.
The off-beat comedy is a community theater favorite because as one local theater veteran explained you
can always find women interested in dressing up as nuns for laughs. The trick is to find the right
willing ladies. The Black Swamp Players has cast a stellar quintet of actresses to inhabit the habits of
the Little Sisters of Hoboken. That includes the absolute joy of seeing Anne Kidder, as the mother
superior, and daughter Melissa Kidder as the sweet dim bulb Sister Amnesia, on stage together. They’re
joined by Deb Shaffer, Kimberly Bright and Mary Anne Buckley.
“Nunsense,” directed by Guy and Janet Ergo Zimmerman, will be staged tonight, Friday and Saturday at 8
p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Bowling Green.
Lest anyone has missed this in the many times this has been staged, the set up has the nuns staging a
variety show to pay for the burial of four nuns who died when the cook served them botulism-laced
vichyssoise. Actually 52 nuns died, but the convent ran out of money when mother superior used some
funds for a video projection system, a clue this is a rather show business inclined order.
The remaining four corpses are in the freezer, and as the nuns complain, the Ben & Jerry’s is
starting to taste funny. So we get the show and the behind the scene antics, and just about every
borderline tasteful nun and Catholic joke you can imagine.
The anonymity of habit, wimple and veil can’t cloak each nun’s vibrant personality. And the script allows
each to shine.
Anne Kidder’s Sister Mary Regina is the ring reader in this circus, and really comes to the fore at the
end of Act 1, when she imbibes the contents of a bottle secreted away by a student. Kidder gradually
grows more barmy as intoxication sets in. She ends up looking pregnant, and exclaims: “A miracle! Get me
a donkey! Get me to a manger!”
Daughter Melissa Kidder shows her improvisational chops as she conducts the quiz at the beginning of the
show. Working with a small dress rehearsal audience, she chatted up one man, quizzing him and reacting
to his answers. When he says he’s not a Catholic, she advises him to cross out the line on the prayer
card she just gave him from “Please call a priest” to “please call a lawyer.” Kidder is a lawyer in her
extra-theatrical life. And she really gets to belt on “I Could’ve Gone to Nashville.”
Shaffer as the frustrated number 2 to mother superior — explored wryly in the “The Biggest Ain’t the
Best” — brings the show to a rousing close with the faux gospel extravaganza “Holier Than Thou” that
runs through a list of saints folks could adopt as models, though suggesting being a martyr might not be
the best choice.
Buckley’s Sister Mary Leo in “Benedictine” she expresses her aspirations to merge her love for dance with
her vocation, all the while pirouetting, and then grinding.
Bright’s Sister Mary Robert is a tough city girl, who the mother superior tries to keep in the wings. But
when she does step out front to open Act 2, it’s for the show’s touching number “Growing Up Catholic,”
which uses a video to celebrate the nun who inspired Sister Robert Anne to turn her life around.
Pianist Jeff Manchur, who with drummer Brad Bernard provides the instrumental support, deserves a
particular tip of the wimple. Last I saw him he was playing Alfred Schnittke’s bleak 20th century piano
concerto with the Bowling Green Philharmonia. Now less than three weeks later, he’s accompanying and
playing straight man to a quintet of ditsy nuns. Ah, the musician’s life!
For all those nuns’ individual quirks though, what lifts the show is the sense of ensemble, the sense
that these five women really are a community, with all the love and petty grievance that involves.
That’s what puts this edition of the Little Sisters of Hoboken on a higher plain.