Late Nite Catechism

Kimberly Richards
as "Sister"

Whether you're a Catholic school alumn, or a heathen from the public school system, there is much to enjoy in the City Theater's hilarious production of Late Nite Catechism. Through the written work of Vicki Quade and Maripat Donovan and the structure they created, a pure invitation to improvisation, Sister is brought amusingly (and sometimes frighteningly) to life. Audience members learn quickly - the snatching of chewing gum from one patron, before we even realized the show had started, was an effective lesson - that Sister isn't to be trifled with. Sit still, don't touch your neighbor ("Allow enough room between you for the Holy Spirit"), don't speak unless spoken to, and be prepared learn a little and laugh a lot. If you behave, you can win a glow-in-the-dark rosary.

The premise is well established by the perfect reproduction of a 1960s-era (or maybe they still look that way) Catholic school classroom, complete with the letters of the alphabet on cards marching around the top of the wall, illustrating the correct way to pen your ABCs. It is explained that we are attending the night school version of catechism class, as a refresher or introduction to the finer points of Catholicism for lapsed or non-Catholics needing education for such reasons as being a god parent. Sister asks how many audience members attended Catholic school, and she remembers who raises their hand (and who doesn't) in order to choose students to answer various questions used to illustrate examples of Catholic symbolism and explanations for some of the bizarre stories and misconceptions of Catholic doctrine many learned as young children. The "pagan babies," the immaculate conception (yes, I was wrong), limbo and purgatory, the many saints, holy cards and getting "whacked" with a ruler - all this and more. And it's great fun.

Our Sister is actress Kimberly Richards, originally from the Pittsburgh area and active in the theater community in San Francisco. Richards is wonderfully wry, appropriately stern, and unbelievably quick on the uptake, with ad-libs and the saintly history of any name in the audience. This "class" is quick-paced and full of light and tear-producing comedy. Sister's take on the Catholic religion ("a leap of faith - right of the reality cliff") is reverent yet well aware of the ironic and often absurd ritual and methodology.

Though our audience seemed to be about 2/3 Catholic school veterans, we also had at least one agnostic who gave Sister a little run for her money (as did another audience member who insisted upon addressing the topic of Jesus masturbating), and Richards showed she was up to the challenge, well versed in the religion, and very comedically talented. Late Nite Catechism is a laugh-filled evening of entertainment and education.

Late Nite Catechism has been extended through August 28, 2005 in City Theatre's Lester Hamburg Studio. Kimberly Richards will continue to perform as "Sister" through Sunday, July 31, and on Tuesday, August 2, actress Mary Zentmyer will step into the role.Tickets are currently available for performances through June 26. Tickets for the extension will go on sale June 9. For performance and ticket information, call 412-431-CITY or visit

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-- Ann Miner

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