Upon walking into Out Front On Main to see Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it all For You, I thought one thing: this place looks eerily like a church. Since they already have pews in the audience, this just made it even funnier. Upon learning Out Front was doing this, I googled the play because I knew absolutely nothing about it. What I found definitely piqued my interest. Thankfully, I chose not to read any spoilers. Christopher Durang wrote this play back in 1979, and he was way ahead of his time when it came to pressing buttons about the Catholic Church.
Ryan Vogel has directed this 60-minute, one-act play set in 1985. This play starts with gospel music blaring, much like I assume it would in church. (Never was a big church-goer.) Sister Mary Ignatius then steps onstage, the music quiets and she takes a spot at an easel after, of course, praying and crossing herself. Sister Mary Ignatius is a stern old nun through and through. She makes Sister Alysious in Doubt look like Mary Poppins.
The show starts out with Sister lecturing the audience. She precedes to explain it all to us. She goes through all things Catholicism, from the differences between purgatory and heaven and hell to the various types of sins right down to her list of those going to hell. During her lengthy lecture, Thomas, a 7-year-old student that she teaches, brings her chocolates and water. She makes him recite the ten commandments for cookies.
Her lecture lasts quite some time, and admittedly, it can make you want to reach up and slap her. After singing “Ava Maria,” four of her former students come on stage. They then proceed to put on a mock Christmas pagent. This alone is worth the price of admission. You will laugh until it feels like you’ve done a hundred sit-ups.
After the Christmas pagent from hell, the students take off their costumes and come back onstage. Each student takes turns telling her how much her teachings have psychologically damaged them. Alysious, a man who now is an alcoholic wife beater, was forced to hold his bladder until he wet himself in her class. Diane has had two abortions, the first of which was when she was raped. Philomena, a girl who frequently got hit a lot by Sister, now has a daughter out of wedlock. Gary, a man who is now in a homosexual relationship with another former student of hers, and has been quite promiscuous. Diane explains to her that she has come to kill her. Then all hell breaks loose.
This is very much a hilarious satire that will make you laugh until you cry. On the same token, it will also make you think very hard. Great acting and an equally strong director is what makes this play shine. For a play that could easily become surreal, it never quite manages to, which is a great thing. I, as an audience member, genuinely believed there could really be nuns out there this crazy.
The cast knocks it out of the park. Holly Amber is phenomonal as Sister Mary Ignatius. She shows that she can do anything. I, for one, am amazed at what all she can keep doing. I almost thought if I laughed too much, she’d pull out a yardstick and poke me.
Michael Hayes is adorable as Sister Mary’s 7-year-old golden boy-servant. He really shows his talent and makes you so happy to see children that are talented and genuine out there in community theater, where so many can seem so sacchrin. Kelly Northcutt will truly make you feel for Diane. As a woman who has gone through so much turmoil, never once do you ever feel as though she’s crazy or too far gone. Miss Northcutt manages to make all of Diane’s not so understandable acts very justifiable. I always love seeing her on stage. Anna Matson as Philomena brings a sweet innocence to her character. Sister Mary constantly reprimands her for having a child out of wedlock, and it almost makes you want to stand up and defend her. Ryan Vogel does double duty directing and starring in this show as Alysious. He shows such great comedic timing. It never ceases to amaze me at what all this man can do. Ryan Daniel does a great job at playing Gary. He has so many funny moments and you truly feel sympathetic towards his character. I really enjoy seeing him act, and I look forward to seeing what he will do in the future.
Playing in June
Murfreesboro Little Theatre
7 p.m. June 15, 16, 22 and 23; 2 p.m. June 17 and 24
Beauty and the Beast Jr.
Murfreesboro/Rutherford County Center for the Arts
7 p.m. June 8, 9, 15, 16, 22 and 23; 2 p.m. June 9, 10, 16, 17, 23 and 24
Arsenic & Old Lace
Arts Center of Cannon County
7:30 p.m. June 1, 2, 8, 9, 15 and 16; 2 p.m. June 3 and 10
The Boys in the Band
Out Front on Main
7:30 p.m. June 7-10 and 14-17