REVIEW: “Mother Superior’s Ho-Ho-Holy Night”

Nuns Take On the Holiday Funk


Mother Superior’s Ho-Ho-Holy Night

by Vicki Quade
At the Royal George thru January 3rd (tickets)

reviewed by Paige Listerud

Since success in 1993, Vicki Quade has turned her Catholic school upbringing into a cottage industry. Her one-woman sister act, Late Night Catechism, first performed by Maripat Donovan, continues to regale audiences nationwide with its potent mix of pre-Vatican II nostalgia, absurdist takes on Catholic doctrine, and lovable GetAttachment.aspx authoritarianism. The format for LNC, and each of its spin-offs, provides a watershed of reliable material for its habit-attired comediennes to fall back on while allowing for roomy give and take between nun and audience. But one element never varies from show to show—the hierarchical relationship between nun and audience is sacrosanct.

It’s a device that’s returned to again and again. Many have mentioned how being in the room with Sister propels them back to 3rd grade catechism class. Certainly, walking down the hallway to the theater gave me Catholic flashbacks. It’s decked with pictures of Popes past, after-school notices, gold stars, and a strategically placed statue of the Virgin. Who knew just the smell of construction paper could bring it all back? Being relegated to childlike status, while someone else reigns with supreme certainty, no matter how nutty they get, is the core of this theatrical experience. (It’s kind of like being under the Bush/Cheney administration, but much more fun and with far less devastating consequences.)

The latest of Quade’s installments, Mother Superior’s Ho-Ho-Holy Night, provides yet another opportunity for nun-domination. The question is, does the rest of its material advance beyond that central core? Kathleen Puls Andrade, who alternates playing Sister with Lisa Braatz through the run, gamely pulls the audience into the task of creating a Christmas pageant that will wow even His Holiness. Here, she’s most successful when she can get a row of men into haloes and angels wings to try out variations on the angel Gabriel.

index However, the humor really flags when she tries to create forced outrageousness by mixing secular and sacred Christmas imagery—something we’ve long since lost our outrage over. Ever the season for pagan, Christian, and even Jewish syncretism, Christmas is so crammed to the gills with intermixed sacred and secular, having Santa show up in the manger is no longer a stretch—if it ever was. In point of fact, there’s a house on Addison, just west of Clark Street, that changes its front yard tableau of the Virgin Mary regularly. A display of devotion that I never bothered with at my most Catholic, and yet both Santa and the Easter Bunny are trotted out each respective season to take their place beside the Mother of God.

Quade and company may have to go back to the drawing board to dig into what is funny about Christmas, from a Catholic perspective. We are inundated with messages like, “Jesus Is the Reason for the Season,” at this time of year. But the “season” of holiday festivity existed thousand of years before Jesus was born—something that Roman Catholicism remembers and jovially lives with to this very day.

Rating: ★★½



8 Responses

  1. I saw this show yesterday. Giving it two and a half stars is a stretch. It’s a waste of money. There’s no humor in it. The other 15 people in the audience (two left a bit after intermission to make it 13) I’m sure felt the same way. It’s a dreary, unfunny exercise.

    • I too saw this show last week. I am a big fan of the nun shows that have played in Chicago, and thought this would have the same high standard. I was completely wrong. My date wanted to leave at intermission, but I told him the show would have to get better. It never did. There’s just no “there there.” I didn’t think much of the “nun,” but admittedly she didn’t have much material to work with.

  2. Obviously Jane Darby was having a bad day. My group of 40 and I, plus another group maybe half our size, truly enjoyed this show when we saw it just last week. There’s a lot of audience participation in this show, and the audience makes or breaks a performance. It’s too bad that Jane and the others didn’t have a good time . . . apparently none of them has a sense of humor – their lives must be very drab. This show is well written, very funny, and most enjoyable, especially by an audience of folks who come with a happy heart full of Christmas joy.

    • LOL! Linda, you must be the nun’s mother! And yes I DO have a sense of humor, your response made me laugh and laugh. How did you know I lead a very drab life? How did you know no one in the audience had a sense of humor? Are you Kreskin? You should stand in front of the theatre with a sign, “My daughter is the actress, you WILL enjoy this show! Thanks for the laughs, Linda.

  3. I saw Mother Superior’s Ho Ho Holy Night last week with a few friends. It’s a great show! It’s good clean fun, ideal for the whole family. Shows like these take you back to the true meaning and spirit of Christmas – a time of joy, laughter and sharing. The audience participation was a hoot!
    Loved the cookies, it was a nice touch, really making you feel like you were at St. Gabriel’s!

  4. We took our senior group from Calumet Township to see Mother Superior’s Ho-Ho-Holy Night and they’re still talking about it. They enjoyed the show thoroughly. It brought back memories from the past. It’s hard to believe the actress is not a real nun. We enjoyed it immensely. Our driver, Waxie Maddox, really enjoyed being on stage. She didn’t think she had the nerve to be part of the production. She felt like a star when she left and everybody knew her name. Everyone should spend the holidays with this nun. I’m recommending the show. Go see it and decide for yourself.

  5. Wow. I think this may be the most comments we’ve received in response to a review ever at this site. Well, thanks, everyone, for your attention. Obviously, there are some real nun-lovers out there who dig the show. Enjoy.

    Paige Listerud

  6. I’d heard about this show from a friend and have to say that I haven’t laughed so hard in years. My wife and I had no idea what to expect — then this no-nonsense nun comes traipsing out and we were immediately transported back to grade school (with all the fear and trepidation of making a false move or else be reprimanded by the good Sister). What was especially fun was when some unsuspecting audience member was singled out as the target of this nun’s comic wrath. I don’t know who this actress is, but I wish I would have had nuns like her back in grade school. She would’ve made readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic a joy. One of the best comediennes I’ve ever seen. My stomach hurt I laughed so hard.

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