Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

November 29, 2007

"Sister's Christmas Catechism"

CityStage, Springfield
Through December 2
By Bernadette Johnson

Words prove inadequate to describe just how entertaining this production is. It’s one of those "you-had-to-be-there" shows. You don’t even have to be Catholic or “in recovery,” but if you are, Sister is sure to stir up more than one memory of your Catholic school days and provide fodder for many "tales told out of school." Yes, public schoolers, most of those stories you’ve heard have at least some basis in reality.

There is a set script, hilarious in itself, but spontaneity reigns. Mary Zentmyer brings wit and wisdom to the role and has an uncanny knack for catching members of the audience, make that her classroom, behaving badly. Classroom etiquette is de rigeur. Gum chewers beware. And keep those hands out of your pockets. There are consequences to pay for misbehavior. But then, there are also the holy cards ("baseball cards of the Catholic Church") and other "holy" trinkets to reward right answers. There are even pointers on what to buy (and not buy) nuns for Christmas, any perfume bearing Elizabeth Taylor’s name being particularly taboo.

Hilarity reigns in the second half of the show as Sister recruits, then dresses audience members for a Nativity tableau unlike any other. Much of the fun is due to the willingness of "volunteers" to laugh at themselves and allow Sister to bedeck them in shower curtains, lampshades and other makeshift costumes for the pageant. And let’s not forget Sister’s fascination with "Forensic Files" and her determination to find out what became of the Magi’s gold.

Yes, here is the Christmas story like it has never been told, and, hopefully, Sister's brief visit will become a holiday tradition at CityStage.