REVIEW: Mother Superior’s Ho-Ho-Holy Night (Nuns4Fun)

  
  

A fun evening of parochial flashbacks!

   
 

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Nuns4Fun Entertainment and Vicki Quade present
  
Mother Superior’s Ho-Ho-Holy Night
 
Written and Directed by Vicki Quade
at
Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted (map)
through Dec 24  |  tickets: $30  |  more info

Reviewed by K.D. Hopkins

Sunday was a true Chicago winter day. The snow and cruel wind brought back memories of the 1967 blizzard. It’s what was called ‘the big one’ for a while and we Chicagoans take pride in having survived. A little girl named Kathy Deneen trudged through the snow the day after the blizzard in spite of snow past her pull-over galoshes. Holy Name of Mary School did not have snow days. Memories!  Flash forward to 2010 and a grown up (sometimes) Kathy trudges herself over to the Royal George Theatre through a nasty winter storm. It was a real trip to walk into a perfectly Mother Superior Ho-Ho-Holy Nightreproduced Catholic classroom.

I gawked in amazement at the felt board with both Nativity and secular Christmas appliqués. Virgin Mary’s and Baby Jesus’ abounded. I looked for a scary cloakroom to put my coat and scarcely remembered that I wasn’t wearing pullover galoshes when Lisa Braatz bounded into the classroom. Ms. Braatz is one of the actresses (along with Kathleen Puls Andrade, Michelle Renee Thompson and Andrea Moser) portraying Mother Superior in Mother Superior’s Ho-Ho-Holy Night, produced and directed by Vicki Quade. Whether you are Catholic or not, the show is good, clean, and G-rated fun. In fact, if you are or were raised Catholic like me, it can be a little weird separating the show from real memories.

Ms. Braatz embodies a nun right after Vatican II but still bred in the old catechism. Her character has ramrod posture devoid of any sexuality in her movement. The head- gear and the rosary were in perfect placement. I almost stood up and recited The Act of Contrition for being grumpy about the weather!

Ms. Braatz takes the audience through a stroll down memory lane regarding the saints, martyrs, and of course sin – but only the venial variety. Mother Superior asks names, and if you aren’t named for a saint then you must be a Protestant. ‘What kind of name is Austin?’ she quizzed one young woman who sat with her family of –gasp- former Catholics. She asked if there were any single or widowed women in the classroom and I raised my hand. I got a holy card with Saint Ann who is the patron of single women and widows. My prayer instructions are ‘Saint Ann! Saint Ann! Send me a man as fast as you can!” Yes it’s amusing but tell that to South Siders with saint statues buried in the yard to bring forth a homebuyer.

Mother Superior has all sorts of displays and prizes for correct answers on holy days of obligation, one of which is Christmas. Her spiel on Baby Jesus’ birthday is funny because of the authenticity. I’m pretty sure that even non-Catholics would get the humor and be good sports about not being the ‘one true religion’. She is ecumenical in her references to the Hanukkah Bush and Muslim New Year but that’s where the comparison ends. The class/audience gets a lesson in St. Nicholas that culminates in some amusing pictures of the character as well as real history. The best picture is good old St. Nick and Baby Jesus. It must be a miracle since they were a few centuries apart in existence but you never question Mother Superior.

Mother Superior Lisa BraatzAct 2 of Mother Superior’s Ho-Ho-Holy Night consisted of putting together the Nativity and the secular Christmas to get to the finals and win a trip to Rome where the Pope lives. Our parish of St. Gabriel was sure to win by putting a Santa, a Christmas tree, an elf, and a candy cane or two around the Nativity scene to make it more contemporary. If you have ever taken a walk around some Chicago neighborhoods during the holidays, this will ring true and funny. Ms. Braatz assigns roles to audience members for a wacky time traveling Nativity play. One young woman was given the role of the Virgin and a blue feather boa because the Blessed Mother is always seen in blue. Then five Angel Gabriel’s are cast from the audience and given different readings of the Annunciation (another Holy Day of Obligation by the way). Mother Superior gave one of the few men in the audience the role of Joseph and a Beatnik wig. Everyone was happy to participate and it didn’t involve a smack in the face with a cream pie or on the knuckles with that giant candy cane. I will admit to drawing back a little when Mother Superior picked it up.

In all, I recommend this show for family outings and where to take your relatives from the old neighborhood. That is particularly if you’re from Chicago, where we ask what parish did you grow up in. This show is one of the nuns4fun productions that have been entertaining Chicagoans for years. They take donations for retired nuns who are not covered under the Social Security Act and are now living that vow of poverty without the protection or security afforded to priests.

Put on your galoshes and your sense of humor and get to the Royal George. FYI-the Baltimore Catechism is available online and it would be good to do a little brush up if you want a lovely macramé plastic cross!

  
  
Rating: ★★★
  
  

For show times on Mother Superior’s Ho-Ho-Holy Night call The Royal George Theatre at 312-988-9000 and visit www.nuns4fun.com to get more information on more Mother Superior entertainment. I will let you know how that St. Ann thing works out.

 

 

  
  

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REVIEW: Over The Tavern (Noble Fool Theatricals)

Noble Fool’s “Over the Tavern” recalls a bland 1950s

TheTable

Noble Fool Theatricals presents:

Over the Tavern

By Tom Dudzick
Directed by John Gawlik
At
Pheasant Run Resort Mainstage Theater, St. Charles
Through March 28
(more info)

Reviewed by Leah A. Zeldes

Noble Fool Theatricals, whose last production played to the Ed Sullivan generation with the holiday revue “Plaid Tidings,” gives the over-60 set another nostalgia fest with their latest, Over the Tavern. Unfortunately, this bland production offers little for the rest of us.

TheDance Playwright Tom Dudzick’s semi-autobiographical look back at life in a working-class Catholic family, ca. 1959, has a strong nostalgic appeal for seniors who recall their childhood in that era, particularly those brought up on the Baltimore Catechism by stern-faced, black-draped nuns with clickers in one hand and punishing rulers in the other. The Pazinski clan — Chet, Ellen and their four kids — live over the family tavern, here denoted by a large lighted Hamm’s Beer sign at stage right. Designer Ian Zywica’s 1950s apartment set has an authentic, if too-affluent feel.

The irascible Chet runs the not overly-successful bar, with unreliable help from his never-seen Pop, and takes his frustrations out verbally on his family. He’s better than his own father because he doesn’t have a drinking problem and he doesn’t hit his kids, but — as his wife offends by reminding him — he also doesn’t hold them first in his thoughts. By paying their tuition to Catholic school, he considers he’s done his duty, and it’s the nuns’ job to shape their character.

He’s so short-tempered that his youngest son, 12-year-old Rudy, literally prays to Jesus for Dad to be in a good mood. Rudy, a bright young wiseacre, isn’t content to follow along placidly where his older siblings and parents have gone before him. In between doing Ed Sullivan impersonations, he takes a literal look at what the nuns are teaching, and questions not only their word, but the religion itself.

If you’re under 60 and didn’t go to Catholic school, what does “Over the Tavern” have to offer you? While there’s a certain universalism to Rudy’s religious rebellion, ordinarily the charm of this play lies in fast and furious repartee and engaging performances from cute kids. Yet there’s little furor in John Gawlik‘s version, which seems slow-paced and cleaned up.

RudywithNun One point of this play is to showcase a high-pitched, rough-and-tumble 1950s that wasn’t like its TV depictions — Rudy’s prayer includes a request to turn his father into Robert Young, the mild-mannered star of the sitcom “Father Knows Best.” Yet Scott Cummins’ reserved Chet makes us wonder what Rudy’s afraid of.

Stacy Stoltz plays his wife as a kind of understated Mary Tyler Moore, resigned, rather than fiery. Most disappointingly, Renee Matthews, normally a vibrant performer, seems listless and stiff as Sister Clarissa, the termagant nun determined to school Rudy in his catechism at all costs.

Picking on a 13-year-old makes me feel meaner than Sister Clarissa, but while Gabriel Harder makes no missteps in the central role, neither is he so engaging as to keep us captivated with Rudy’s prankishness. Rudy needs more piss and vinegar.

As Rudy’s less-bright older brother, 16-year-old Alex Adams is also restrained, though he does give us some convincing moments of teenage angst. Katrina Syrriss seems colorless as the boys’ sister.

The only stirring performance is that of Daniel Velisek, who does a credible and compelling job with the rather limited role of Georgie, their mentally challenged brother.

Rating: ★★½

TheRuler