Charles Busch’s “The Divine Sister,” which parodies famous nun movies from “The Singing Nun” to “The Song of Bernadette” and everything in between, is the latest offering from Raleigh Little Theatre as part of its “City Series,” which aims to present grittier theatre intended for mature audiences. And, while “The Divine Sister” can’t rightfully be called gritty, it certainly is intended for mature audiences, or at least audiences who can handle the dirtiest of swear words coming at them from out of nowhere and lots of sexual innuendo. And, while many will love this farcical, ridiculous romp directed by Rod Rich, others will find it to be a seemingly endless bombardment of one gag after another with nothing of substance to hold onto.
RLT’s production staff doesn’t do anything wrong here. In fact, Nancy and Rod Rich’s convent set, which features changing “stained glass,” and Liz Grimes-Droessler’s on-point lighting cues add some of the best, non-over-the-top humor to the production. And there are a few genuinely funny moments—Mother Superior’s (Tony Hefner) unexpected soprano-voiced lip syncing makes for some genuine laughter early on. Unfortunately, however, the show quickly dissolves into a mess of fart jokes and bawdy language that serves no real purpose and often goes on for far too long. “The Divine Sister” features words that can’t even be printed here, and that would be all well and good, except it does so for no purpose other than shock value.
Despite the questionable material and the fledgling story—just imagine every silly subplot possible—the cast does well with the material. Lexi Levy shines as Agnes, the show’s title character and a young postulate who believes she has healing powers and can see magical visions. Levy is all innocence and wide-eyes when she needs to be, but is able to make a quick and effective transition to a harsher version of her character later in the show. Hefner is the most comically gifted in the cast, and Christine Rogers possesses poise and, dare it be said, grace in her role as Mrs. Levinson, a self-proclaimed atheist whom Mother Superior requests money from in order to save the failing convent. Alison Lawrence lends some humor to the sexually charged Sister Acacius role but ultimately just takes her “comedic stylings” too far.
To put it plainly, while this show does have some redeeming moments, it’s just not everyone’s cup of tea. Those who like farce—and at heavy doses—will have fun, while viewers who prefer a more realistic show that doesn’t try quite so hard to be funny will be counting down the minutes until the play is over.
Raleigh Little Theatre and Actors Comedy Lab present THE DIVINE SISTER at 8 p.m. Jan. 23-25, 3 p.m. Jan. 26, 8 p.m. Jan. 30-Feb 1, and 3 p.m. Feb 2 in RLT‘s Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.
TICKETS: $20 ($15 students and seniors 62+).
BOX OFFICE: 919-821-3111 or https://raleighlittletheatre.secure.force.com/.
SHOW: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/shows/13-14/divine.html and http://www.actorscomedylab.com/next.html.
NEWS RELEASE: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/press/divinefiles/RLT_The_Divine_Sister.docx.
Raleigh Little Theatre: http://www.raleighlittletheatre.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/RaleighLittleTheatre.
Actors Comedy Lab: http://www.actorscomedylab.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Actors-Comedy-Lab/201926916520429.
NOTE 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices are available for all shows.
NOTE 2: Raleigh Little Theatre will partner with the LGBT Center of Raleigh to present a special wine tasting and social, with wine from The Wine Feed and food from La Farm Bakery, in the lobby of the Cantey V. Sutton Theatre from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. before the Thursday, Jan. 23rd, performance of The Divine Sister. La Farm Bakery will have its food truck in front of the theater between 6 and 8 p.m. Telephone 919-821-3111 or click here to purchase tickets to this wine tasting and show for $25 ($21 students and seniors).
The Divine Sister (2010 comedy with nuns): http://www.samuelfrench.com/p/1946/divine-sister-the (Samuel French).
Charles Busch (New York playwright, screenwriter, and drag artist): http://www.charlesbusch.com/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Busch (Wikipedia).
Rod Rich (director): https://www.facebook.com/rod.rich.33 (Facebook page).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.susiepotter.com and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.