Regional Reviews: Los Angeles
Late Nite Catechism
Also see Sharon's review of Star Wars Trilogy in 30 Minutes
Also playing Upstairs at the Coronet is Late Nite Catechism, and the fact that Late Nite Catechism is still going strong in the same theatre complex where Puppetry of the Penis recently closed is surely a sign that we won't be turned into pillars of salt anytime soon.
The premise of Late Nite Catechism is that we folks in the audience have gathered one night in a Catholic school classroom because we all need a little refresher course for one reason or another. Sister (just "Sister") is to be our teacher, and she knows we don't necessarily want to be there; she doesn't either, but it was the priest's poker night. So, reluctant teacher meets reluctant studies, and Late Nite Catechism is off and running.
Because catechism is all about dialogue, this is an audience participation piece. Sister asks for volunteers to answer some basic questions on Catholic doctrine (and offers offbeat prizes as incentives to volunteer). Sister is a good teacher, although she's a frustrated one, and her snappy comebacks when the audience displeases her are the source of much of the comedy in the show. When audience members talk when Sister's back is turned, she reprimands, "True Soldiers of Christ wouldn't do that." When we applaud a correct answer, she snaps, "Stop that clapping; we're not Baptists."
As the show depends on the audience's responses, it is hard to tell precisely how much of it is scripted. Surely Sister has a set of stock responses she goes to based on what the audience throws at her. And despite Sister's outward demeanor, the show depends upon a certain amount of audience misconduct. A performance of Late Nite Catechism with an audience full of perfectly well-behaved students able to correctly answer all of Sister's questions on the first try would be a boring night at the theatre. Luckily, your weekend audiences in West Hollywood are pretty much guaranteed to fail to live up to Sister's expectations.
Full marks to production designer Marc Silvia, who has created a terrific Catholic primary school classroom in which to house our lesson. The walls of the theatre are bulletin boards, with visual aids (as well as samples of children's work) pinned up. There's a plenitude of riches here, from the wall with pictures of all the U.S. Presidents (with a particularly large picture of John F. Kennedy) to a penitent variant of the bright yellow smiley face.
No, you don't have to be Catholic to enjoy Late Nite Catechism. Although you might not walk down memory lane with some of the references to Catholic schools, you certainly won't feel out of place. You don't need anything beyond the most rudimentary understanding of Catholicism (if that) to get Sister's jokes, and Sister is teaching at a very basic level. Indeed, it might be too basic. A lovely section of the show begins with Sister asking who Cain and Abel married. Her ultimate resolution of the question she is really asking is excellent, but the answer she actually gives to this introductory question is, from a Biblical standpoint, a vast oversimplification, if not outright incorrect. Nonetheless, it's a quick evening of painless education spiced up with light comedy. If only Sister would teach traffic school. Late Nite Catechism runs indefinitely Upstairs at the Coronet Theatre in Hollywood, Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., Sundays at 3:00 p.m. For tickets, call (310) 372-4477, or Ticketmaster. For information, see http://www.late-nitecatchism.com.
Quade/Donovan Entertainment Presents Late Nite Catechism, by Vicki Quade and Maripate Donovan. Production Stage Manager Steve Sweeney; Production Designed by Marc Silvia; General Press Representative Rebecca Gilchrist; Directed by Marc Silvia and Mary McAuliffe. At the performance reviewed, Sister was played by Nonie Newton-Breen.