No sets. Miniscule costume changes. This is probably not the type of musical fans expect when they attend a show at Long Island's only year-round professional theater company. However, because of the script's tendency to tell (and not show), the glitz and glamour have been deemed unnecessary. Nunsense begins with its audience being told that the Little Sisters of Hoboken have discovered that their cook, Sister Julia, Child of God, has accidentally poisoned 52 of the sisters. Because they are in dire need of funds to bury the dead sisters, they have decided to put on a variety show. The sisters consist of a former circus performer (Gwendolyn F. Jones), a certified Mistress of Novices (Inga Ballard), a streetwise nun from Brooklyn (Marie Danvers), a wannabe ballerina who has yet to earn her habit (Kristina Teschner), and an amnesiac nun who lost her memory when a crucifix fell on her head (Brittany Ross). Amidst tap dancing, ballet, and an audience quiz, the talented actors create a memorable theatrical experience.
Each of the eclectic actresses has stand-out moments, but a few are delightful at every turn. Danvers is a treat as Sister Robert Anne, with a New Yawk accent in full-swing while she tap-dances and pokes fun at Engeman's previous production, South Pacific (the remnants of which remain on the stage). Brittany Ross' Sister Amnesia raises her squeaky voice to the high heavens, making her lines consistently funny and attention-grabbing. Gwendolyn F. Jones' Sister Mary Regina is most enjoyable when intoxicated on an unknown drug. She invokes a bit of irony as she rolls around on the floor in her habit and invites the audience to "sit back and watch a couple of butch nuns dance."
That's exactly what the audience does as they take in Antoinette DiPietropolo's amateur choreography. Dance numbers feature miming of the lyrics and shuffling in and out of formation in a slightly better fashion than that of a high-school production. Kristina Teschner's solo ballet number as Sister Mary Leo is easily the most unique in the show, as she performs it almost entirely en pointe. DiPietropolo serves her role as a director with greater results. Lines in the script have been updated to reflect the times ("I'm having the hardest time getting the Bible app on this thing," says Sister Mary Regina of her cell phone). DiPietropolo keeps the pace of the show moving despite some of Goggin's ho-hum songs. Other impressively distinctive touches include the actors' interaction with the audience prior to the show, throughout the show, and even during intermission. The actresses embody the roles of dopey fundraisers to a tee, even when improvising with their spectators.
An entertaining evening will definitely be had with this Nunsense, despite its few flaws. Just try to leave the theater without clapping and dancing to the foot-stomping penultimate number, "Holier Than Thou" — it would be blasphemous.
- John W. Engeman Theatre
- Gwendolyn F. Jones
- Inga Ballard
- Marie Danvers
- Antoinette DiPietropolo
- Dan Goggin