If you want to see a sophisticated and inspiring tale about a nun dedicated to her profession, skip The Diversionary Theatre’s production of “The Divine Sister.” However, if you are in the mood for a lowbrow John Waters-esque spoof of postulants in film, starring a man in drag, welcome to paradise.
Taking place in the 1960s, Mother Superior (Daren Scott) is facing an endless amount of conflicts. The Catholic school, she is the director of, is going bankrupt; and a socialite, Mrs. Levinson (Maggie Carney), refuses to donate money to help save it. Mother’s life gets more complicated after finding out that her ex-boyfriend, Jeremy (Dangerfield G. Moore), is a friend of the rich lady and clearly still has feelings for the nun. Through it all, Mother Superior faces her obstacles with optimism and tries to keep her faith intact.
“The Divine Sister” incorporates an endless amount of allusions from movies involving nuns including “The Sound of Music,” “Doubt,” “Sister Act,” “Agnes of God” and “The Singing Nun.” The references are handled with the kind of absurd glee featured in a Mel Brooks classic or an episode of “The Simpsons.”
A unique aspect of “The Divine Sister” is that writer, Charles Busch, includes many comedic monologues for the cast to perform. Each one contains some bizarre punch line. This is perhaps best utilized when Moore, as Jeremy, gives a noirish monologue about his long-term rivalry with his father. The payoff is a silly highlight of the script.
No religion is off limits for lampooning in this satire. Christianity, Judaism, Agnosticism and even Atheism are all mocked over the course of the 90-minute comedy. What makes this work is that the jokes come so quickly, that if a quip is cringe worthy, a well timed one-liner will arrive in just a couple of seconds right after.
It should also be noted that though the play does take a lot of shots at organized religion, writer, Busch, does not completely bash Catholicism. This is mostly because he treats Mother Superior with respect and dignity throughout this farce.
Though there is an outstanding comedy ensemble with scene stealing roles from performers such as Yolanda Franklin and an unrecognizable Jacque Wilke, Scott shines brightest. With the exception of an exaggerated flashback sequence, Scott plays Mother Superior completely in character only allowing the audience a few moments to accept the fact that the male actor is portraying a female nun.
In a play with many broad and stereotypical roles, Scott is surprisingly subtle with his depiction of the naïve, but optimistically devout Catholic. This makes his performance all the more enjoyable and gives spectators a reason to care about all the ludicrous events on stage.
The only issue with this theatrical piece involves a scene midway through, which pokes fun at “The Da Vinci Code.” While the purpose is to set up many surprising revelations, the plot temporarily becomes less interesting, since the dialogue doesn’t really add anything to the overall experience. Fortunately, the story and the humor gets back on track after this homage is over.
Full of hilariously irreverent gags under Glenn Paris’ direction, “The Divine Sister” is a hoot. It will in no way broaden your views on religion or spirituality, but the fast paced evening offers plenty of fun and amusement.