Theater Review: “Nunsense” at HART

Photo courtesy of HART

Nunsense has proven to be a reliable hit and has spawned eight sequels over the three-plus decades since it first appeared. That’s why it’s hard to believe that Haywood Arts Regional Theatre (around nearly as long) has waited until now to produce the show.

Nunsense is as much old school variety show as anything, relying on a mixed bag formula aimed at one thing: pure entertainment. And HART delivers with a perfectly cast, and tightly directed production. The set up is simple, yet darkly funny: Sister Julia Child-of-God lacks the knack for high cuisine, which leads to the death by botulism of all but a tiny few of the convent. And due to the purchase of a big screen TV by the Reverend Mother, the remaining nuns haven’t enough money to bury them all properly. Thus, using the left over stage of the high school production of Grease, the remaining nuns stage a musical benefit to raise the rest of the cash.

The survivors include ballerina Sister Leo, a young novice who is played with wide-eyed glee by Lea Parker. Then there’s the street smart Sister Robert Anne, who just wants to be allowed to shine. Karen Covington brings her vast resume to the production, giving a solid performance in the role. Tabitha Judy plays Sister Amnesia, the nun who has suffered memory loss. Having no clue (until the end) who she is, Judy brings down the house with her comic skills, which includes using a somewhat naughty nun puppet, with which she duets. Keeping this motley crew in line is the second in command, Sister Hubert, played by Lyn Donley, a foil for some of the chaos that ensues.

Naturally, nothing goes as planned. This is much to the ire of the Reverend Mother who starts off defensively uptight, yet mellows when some illegal drugs are found by Sister Robert Anne. Somewhat accidentally, Reverend Mother partakes and gets high as a kite, leading to the most riotously funny sequence in the show. Leslie Lang more than delivers in the role.

Director Suzanne Tinsley has assembled a show that stands its own among the many productions over the decades.

See Nunsense at HART through Friday, June 19, with performances on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. $13-$26.

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About Jeff Messer
playwright, actor, director and producer, Jeff Messer has been most recently known as a popular radio talk show host. He has been a part of the WNC theatre scene for over 25 years, and actively works with and supports most of the theatres throughout the region. Follow me @jeffdouglasmess

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