The Divine Sister
Reviewed by Frank J. Avella
Directed by Carl
Featuring: Charles Busch, Alison Fraser, Amy Rutberg,
Jennifer Van Dyck, Jonathan Walker and Julie Halston.
mad love for fifties and sixties movies is obvious
in all of his work and with The Divine Sister,
he has fashioned one of the funniest, most-entertaining
and yet most thought-provoking plays in quite
a while and certainly one of his best ever. Note:
I am a huge fan of Vampire Lesbians of Sodom
as well as The Tale of the Allergist’s
Wife—two works that fall on the opposite
sides of the mainstream spectrum.
What makes this
play so good? Well besides Busch satirizing almost
every film made that has a nun in it (specifically
The Sound of Music, The Singing Nun,
The Trouble with Angels, The Bells
of St. Marys’, The Song of Bernadette,
Doubt and Agnes of God) as well
as so many other films (His Girl Friday,
Auntie Mame, Suddenly, Last Summer,
A Cry in the Dark, The Da Vinci Code,
to name a few), he has also written a terrific
script that is an homage to the melodramatic films
of the 50s and early 60s where over-the-top acting
ruled the day, Catholic morality governed what
you could and couldn’t show onscreen and
a happy ending was vital. He’s peppered
his work with Rosalind Russell-esque dialogue
(an actress Busch both resembles and loves to
emulate) and has a gifted director (Carl Andress)
who knows exactly how far to go to make his audience
laugh at the ridiculous while making us aware
of what we are laughing at.
The lunatic plot
revolves around St. Veronica’s Mother Superior
(drag queen Busch having a hell of a good time)
and a potpourri of Sisters hiding secrets—some
nuttier than anything we’ve ever see in
the films mentioned above. I won’t go into
any more plot detail since part of the infinite
joy of experiencing The Divine Sister
is how the zany plot unfolds and the ways the
actors react to certain revelations.
I cannot commend
the ensemble enough. Led by the amazing Busch,
his sometime sidekick Julie Halston is absolutely
hilarious as Sister Acacius, a nun who is called
a certain name late in the play that leads to
more hilarity than any sitcom since Soap.
who is NYC’s best-kept secret, is simply
spectacular as the German Sister Walburga. The
woman steals every scene she is in. Her line deliveries
are perfection and, pardon the paradox, but she
is one sexy sister!
Amy Rutberg, Jennifer
Van Dyck and Jonathan Walker round out the kick-ass
troupe doing wonderful work as well.
“We are living
in a great time of social change and it’s
our duty to stop it,” proclaims Mother Superior
in a sinister tone.
Sister masterfully blends high comedy with
it’s own dramatic themes which include the
dangers of repression and not learning from ones
The genius in this
work is that at the end of the high jinx-filled
evening you find yourself quoting your favorite
lines but you also find yourself pondering real
and relevant issues that have been around forever--
including the dangers of extreme religious zealotry.
At the SoHo Playhouse,
15 VanDam Street, South Village; 212-691-1555;
1 hour 45 minutes.
SoHo Playhouse | 15 VanDam
Me, Myself & I
Saturday 2:30pm & 8:00pm
Sunday 2:30pm & 7:30pm
Closes on October 31, 2010
Reviewed by Frank J. Avella
Playing at Playwrights
Directed by Emily Mann
Edward Albee is
arguably America’s greatest living playwright.
All one needs to do is mention Who’s
Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, or more recently,
The Goat or Who is Sylvia?, to know he
has created decades filled with masterpieces.
Unfortunately, Me, Myself & I does
not belong in that category. This script plays
like the type of work an ambitious young playwright
might experiment with, not the labors of a seasoned
existential musings feel trite and surface. I
rarely felt engaged. The repetition annoyed me
and the constant clever wordplay kept taking me
out of the piece.
The play is certainly
worth seeing since lesser Albee is still better
than most plays written today. It also boasts
an opportunity to see the glorious Elizabeth Ashley
Ms. Ashley plays
a flighty, irrational mother who is unable to
tell her identical twin sons apart. She named
them both Otto (well, actually one is named OTTO
and the other otto). On this particularly ridiculous
day OTTO (Zachary Booth), the self-labeled “evil”
twin, arrives at his mother’s bedside to
announce he is becoming Chinese and he declares
that his brother, otto (Preston Sadleir) no longer
exists. The rest of the play feels like a game
that Albee has invented but fails to explain the
rules and goals to his audience.
banter follows and the fourth wall is broken with
abandon. The problem is I felt detached and eventually
could care less about the characters.
Some who saw the
version, also directed by Emily Mann, at the McCarter
Theatre in 2008, say it was much better; others
are saying it’s nearly the same. I did not
see it. I do know that Mann’s direction
felt lazy and lacked passion.
comic timing is a wonder and she has a good time
with her role seemingly channeling Carol Channing,
Bette Davis and Elizabeth Taylor. Still, her approach
to the Mother felt off. Brian Murray is also hilarious
but the character felt completely out of sorts
with the piece. And Booth and Sadleir weren’t
really able to play parts as much as spew abstract
dialogue since their parts were befuddlingly one-dimensional.
Natalia Payne has it even worse as otto’s
girlfriend. And Stephen Payne has the silliest
of roles as the play’s deux ex machina.
Most people who
know of Albee’s work know of his own damaging
experience with being adopted and raised by right-wingers.
Cruel mothers and non-existent children are nothing
new in his plays. Here he fails to delve deeper
than the surface. Me, Myself & I
is a play that has admirable elements
and is occasionally entertaining, but is mostly
frustrating, alienating and exhausting.
Ticket Price: $75.00
Tickets by Phone: 212-279-4200 http://www.playwrightshorizons.org
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