Saturday, February 19, 2011
CHARLES BUSCH IS “THE DIVINE SISTER”!
“THE DIVINE SISTER”
Oh, God! There are some crazy things happening at St. Veronica’s Church…
Forget the upcoming “Sister Act”, coming soon to Broadway. If you wanna see some nuns behaving badly, check out “The Divine Sister “, the “holy outrageous new comedy” by Award-winning playwright/actor Charles Busch. After all, who can resist a holy woman blaring, “Shut your hole!”? (And, without being specific, that is NOT the most outrageous tagline in this play…) “The Divine Sister“, directed by Carl Andress, is entering its fifth month off Broadway at New York City’s Soho Playhouse. As Busch’s admirers have always known, the author of such emblematic works as “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom” and “Psycho Beach Party” continues to find new ways to break the rules-- whether he’s writing the play or starring in it, and whether he’s in or out of drag. Fortunately for us, Mr. Busch is in drag for this one, and it’s a role he was seemingly born to play. Busch is the Mother Superior in 1960’s Pittsburgh struggling to keep her Church thriving amidst financial struggle. This no-nonsense Sister rules over a cast as colorful as the deliberately tacky “stained glass windows“ that decorate the set. Her postulate Agnes (Amy Rutberg)is a red-haired, impossibly perky scatterbrain who occasionally sprouts stigmata and may have divine powers (She sees Thomas Aquinas’ face in a rhubarb pie, and later on sees Saint Claire in a pair of pee-stained boys’ underwear). There’s also the tightly wound and restless Sister Acacius (Julie Halston), who we just know-- and secretly hope-- is ready to snap at any moment during the play‘s running time. More shenanigans are on the way when the German Sister Walburga (Alison Fraser), complete with lesbian tendencies and questionable motivations, comes to visit the nunnery.
Busch’s strong-willed Mother Superior is determined to keep her Church afloat. But how can she do it? She approaches the cold-blooded widow Mrs. Levinson (Jennifer Van Dyke) for a possible donation, but gets rejected. Our Sister gets a surprise, however, when she is unexpectedly reunited with the widow’s morally dubious houseguest Jeremy (Jonathan Walker), who knew the plucky nun when she was a fresh-faced, Titian-haired lady reporter many years ago. (This flashback scene also allows Busch to take a break from his nunswear and indulge in some of his trademark vintage-style glamour.) Not only that, but Jeremy apparently still harbors a decades-old crush on our habited heroine. Hmmm… The audience starts to wonder, How far will our heroine go to save her Church?
Like Busch’s other plays, “The Divine Sister” is inhabited by crazy characters and wildly over-the-top situations, peppered with sight gags and the cast’s delightfully deadpan delivery of some truly outrageous dialogue. Just when we think that “The Divine Sister” can’t or won’t get any more outrageous, well… guess what? It does. The play also includes pays homage to such camp classics as “Mame“ and “The Sound of Music“ which are so subtle that only the most ardent theater aficionado will likely pick it up. At the center of all the fun is Busch’s Mother Superior, who is a character you won’t forget any time soon. Busch’s wordless acting in one scene, while listening to the confessions of a boy with budding homosexual tendencies, is superbly riotous. And, it’s hard to top when our Mother Dearest breaks out a guitar for an impromptu song-and-dance number. Can I get a “Hallelujah!”? .
In “The Divine Sister”, the audience wonders: Will Mother Superior will sacrifice her faith or morals to save St. Veronica’s. , or can she use her idiosyncratic charms to craft a plan? Without giving too much away, let‘s say that our leading lady comes out on top. With “The Divine Sister”, so does Charles Busch… again.
“The Divine Sister” is playing at The Soho Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street between 6th Avenue and Varick Street. Call (212)352-3101 or go to www.OvationTix.com for tickets, and visit http://www.divinesisteronstage.com/ for more info.