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Theater Review – ‘Nunsense’

Theater Review – ‘Nunsense’

Produced by Theatre Three – Port Jefferson Reviewed by Jeb Ladouceur  A hilarious combination of singing, dancing, and slapstick

Photo by Brian Hoerger, Theatre Three Productions, Inc. When in real life Dan Goggin first created a line of clerically skewed greeting cards featuring one-liners delivered by a witty nun, he probably had no idea where the concept would take him. But the idea proved so popular that his resulting 1985 Off-Broadway musical titled ‘Nunsense’ (for which Goggin wrote the book, music, and lyrics) ran at new York’s Douglas Fairbanks Theater for an astonishing 3,672 performances. Only the indefatigable ‘Fantasticks’ has had a longer run (42 years) in Off-Broadway musical theater history.

Anyone who has ever been disciplined in school by those remarkable women attired in black and white, will recognize Don Goggin’s zany clerical on-stage quintet. As interpreted by five Theatre Three standouts in Port Jefferson (Phyllis March, Linda May, Sari Feldman, Tracylynn Connor, and Jessica Contino), the madcap Little Sisters of Hoboken that they portray are respectively: Sister Mary Regina-(Mother Superior,) Sister Mary Hubert-(Mistress of Novices,) Sister Robert Anne, Sister Mary Amnesia, and Sister Mary Leo.

The superb group, currently starring under the direction of Jeffrey Sanzel, incredibly joins a sorority of some 25,000 women who have once played in ‘Nunsense’ productions worldwide (the musical has been translated into 26 languages). Some of the American notables who’ve contributed to the ‘Nunsense’ nonsense are, for example: Edie Adams, Kaye Ballard, Peggy Cass, Phyllis Diller, and Sally Struthers. Among the characters they have played in this show are nuns who have been … a circus performer … a streetwise Brooklynite … a Novice who longs to be a ballerina … and an amnesia victim whose been conked by a tumbling crucifix. Ouch!

This group decides to combine their talents in order to raise cash for the unlikeliest of reasons. It seems the convent cook, Sister Julia Child of God (who else), has inadvertently poisoned all but 19 of the order’s 71 members with her tainted vichyssoise, and with four of the convent’s deceased still on ice in the fridge, Mother Superior has run flat out of burial money. What’s an impoverished convent supervisor to do?… let’s see … hey, why not tap all that pent-up show biz savvy and run a talent show?… that should provide the needed cash, by golly!

What follows is a hilarious combination of singing, dancing, and slapstick that doesn’t let up for a minute. 

Musical Director, Steve McCoy and Choreographer, Sari Feldman couldn’t be more in sync if they were Siamese twins. Scenic Designer, Randall Parsons has the show’s trickiest assignment because the Good Sisters are putting on their creation in a school theater that’s still decorated from a recent 8th grade performance of ‘Grease.’ Naturally, the stage has to look like that … and it does. Likewise, Robert W. Henderson, Jr.’s lighting must have presented a major challenge. Anyone who thinks it’s easy to light a show that’s basically a black and white production … and still keep it ‘colorful’ … hasn’t tackled the challenge. The same goes for those habits provided by costume designer Teresa Matteson. Costumes play an extremely important part in this musical, and Lord knows, they’d better fit properly.

This is the fourth time I’ve seen ‘Nunsense’ and my third review. One might think the show would get stale after so many exposures to it, but that’s far from the case. Indeed, the current incarnation of Don Goggin’s rollicking invention is the most entertaining I’ve ever taken in. It’s even got a dozen or so Jeffrey Sanzel-style variations that look like the maestro could have borrowed them from my old Catholic school.

In conclusion, each of the ‘Good Sisters of Hoboken’ provides a unique version of hilarity in Theatre Three’s current riotous proceedings. Accordingly, it’s impossible to determine which of the five is funniest. Suffice it to say the rambunctiousness builds without letup until veteran hoofer Linda May (Sister Mary Hubert) belts out the gospel-style showstopper, Holier Than Thou. It’s a fitting conclusion to this inimitable show. By all means, see it … you’ll be glad you did!__


Award-winning writer, Jeb Ladouceur is the author of a dozen novels, and his theater and book reviews appear in several major L.I. publications. His recent hit, THE GHOSTWRITERS, explores the bizarre relationship between the late Harper Lee and Truman Capote. Ladouceur’s newly completed thriller, THE SOUTHWICK INCIDENT, was introduced at the Smithtown Library in May. The book involves a radicalized Yale student and his CIA pursuers. Mr. Ladouceur’s revealing website is www.JebsBooks.com

Reader Comments (1)

As always, a top-rate review!
Thu, March 1, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCindi Sansone-Braff

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