Late Nite Catechism is Sinfully Funny

13Jan09

Sister” gets audience into the act at Stoneham Theatre
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If you plan to attend Sister’s Late Night Catechism “class” currently at Stoneham Theatre, you would do well to arrive early and be in your seat before curtain time. Sister (played by Nonie Newton-Breen) showed no mercy as she comically scolded Saturday night’s late arrivals, much to the delight of their more punctual “classmates.”

“Late Night Catechism 3: ‘Til Death Do Us Part,” is the third in the four-part “Late Night Catechism” franchise of touring one-woman shows that combine Catholic and other topical humor with lots of audience interaction.

This sinfully side-splitting installment of the LNC series focuses on the sacraments of Matrimony and the “Blessing of the Sick,” formerly known as “Last Rites” (or as Sister explains, “Same sacrament, different marketing plan.”) The show also includes Sister’s own irreverent version of “The Newlywed Game.” For the benefit of lapsed and non-Catholics in the audience, Sister opens the show with her own droll “review” of all the sacraments and other aspects of Catholic liturgy.

Some of the funniest moments come from Sister’s interactions with the audience or “class.” When she spots one woman taking a sip from a water bottle, Sister demands to know what she’s guzzling. “Do you think our Lord Jesus up there on the cross might have bee a little thirsty too?” Sister asks.

When a young woman in the audience repeatedly speaks out of turn, Sister drags her on stage and sits her in a corner facing a portrait of Jesus and a statue of Mary. “Stare at Jesus,” Sister orders. “Look at how sad Mary is!” Before releasing the woman back to her seat, Sister instructs her to “write a 150,000-word essay on how you are personally responsible for Christ’s agony on the cross.”

When a man in the class correctly answers a question about the sacraments, Sister gives him a prize – a napkin on which the coffee stain forms the image of the Virgin Mary. “I’d better not see it on eBay,” Sister warns.
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Chicago actress Nonie Newton-Breen has been touring the country for the last seven years playing Sister in Late Nite Catechism shows. She honed her comedy skills at Chicago’s famed Second City Theatre, which produced the likes of John Belushi, Shelley Long, Bill Murray, John Candy and Steve Carell. Newton-Breen has appeared in TV soap operas, sit-coms and hidden camera shows. Her TV writing credits include “Candid camera,” CBS’s “Say What?,” “Late Date” and “The Barkers.” She earned a Chicago Emmy for writing and performing “Oh, Art!” for PBS.

The set for Late Nite Catechism will bring back memories for every Catholic School grad, with its ubiquitous crucifixes, statues of Mary and (of course) a prominent picture of JFK, the nation’s only Catholic President.

Needless to say, Late Nite Catechism isn’t Shakespeare, nor is it intended to be high-brow theater. But on a cold winter night in the middle of a recession, an evening of escapist comedy may do more for your soul than a good Act of Contrition.

While greeting the audience in the lobby at the end of each show, Sister collects donations to benefit local orders of sisters. In the first weekend alone, $3,500 was raised that will benefit The Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana and The Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston, who have had a presence in Stoneham for over 100 years.

Late Nite Catechism 3: ‘Til Death Do We Part, runs through January 25 at Stoneham Theatre, 395 Main St., Stoneham. For tickets and show times, go online at stonehamtheatre.org/ or phone 781-279-2200.

[Late Nite Catechism 3: ‘Til Death Do We Part, by Maripat Donovan. Production Manager, Dave Brown. Technical Director, Jason Cotting. Advance Stage Manager, Jodie Katz. Light/Sound Operator, L. Arkansas Light. Production Assistant, Bryan Miner. Props/Set Dressings, Kathryn Kawecki. Master Carpenter, Andrew Doran.]

This review originally appeared in the Wakefield Daily Item.

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