Kathleen Stefano as the prying nun
Kathleen Stefano as the prying nun

O Holy Night

You've heard about Irish Alzheimer's? That's when you forget everything but the grudges. And that's the kind of cute, deep-down affectionate humor at the heart of Late Nite Catechism. The one-nun show, starring Kathleen Stefano, has turned the Encore Room at the Coconut Grove Playhouse into a parochial school classroom, complete with pictures of JFK, Mother Teresa, the Holy Heart of Mary, and JC Superstar Himself. A formidable nun in a vast polyester habit and sensible black shoes is teaching St. Bruno's adult catechism class, and she means business: Your chewing gum will end up in Kleenex, which also will be used to cover necklines cut too low; talking in class will earn an audience member severe embarrassment. On the other hand, answering Sister's questions correctly has its rewards (I scored a swell plastic Immaculate Conception). The pre-Vatican II nostalgia is genuine, but you don't have to be Catholic to share Sister Kathleen's wisdom. To wit: Should priests be allowed to marry? Only if they really, really love each other.

Around for about a decade and not too much the worse for wear, Late Nite Catechism has emerged as the hardiest among the spiritual progeny of the much edgier 1981 nun story Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You by Christopher Durang. Vicki Quade and Maripat Donovan's script is not in Durang's league, and Stefano frankly also could use a bit more sass. She is hilarious answering questions planted in the audience but needs stand-up comic savvy when facing the unexpected. The amplification is unnecessary in such a small room, as is the intermission in such a small play. But why quibble over venial sins when the show's virtues are so sweet? Late Nite Catechism is a hoot.


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