The show must go on. This tradition illuminates the perseverance and work ethic of theater folk. When Riverhead Faculty and Community Theatre found itself temporarily evicted from its home stage at Riverhead High School due to construction, members tapped their improvisational skills (in more ways than one) and, for the first time in the company’s history, rented another stage — at Vail-Leavitt Music Hall. As president Glenn Abramowitz declares in program notes for “Nunsense,” “but what a stage this is.” With its intimate ambiance and acoustics designed for an era without the dubious benefit of electronic sound enhancement, the historic hall is a delightful venue for RFTC’s exceptional production.
Dan Goggins’ hilarious, audience-interactive play brings us into the world of the Little Sisters of Hoboken, who find themselves in need of raising funds. The cook, it seems, has accidentally poisoned most of the convent’s residents. They had buried all but four when they ran out of money after the Reverend Mother bought a plasma TV. The nuns decide to put on a variety show on the middle school stage (set up for a production of “Grease”), praying this will provide enough money to move the final four out of the freezer and into the ground. That’s right. Dead nuns in a freezer.
I have seen this play more times than I can count and it never gets old. One need not be Catholic or have gone to a Catholic school to enjoy the jokes. As performed by RFCT, “Nun-sense” provides audiences of all faiths with two hours of riotous laughter and even a few poignant moments.
Each member of the cast has a fine voice and it is such a relief to enjoy good live musical performances without the artificial enhancement of a sound system. No clunking. No feedback. Just pure heavenly voices and blissful harmonizing.
Marguerite Volonts is stern as the Mother Superior, Sister Mary Regina. She brings the first act to an end with one of the funniest solo scenes in the play. No spoilers here, though. As Sister Mary Hubert, Marion Stark is excellent as the “second-in-command” with higher aspirations. Laura Nitti is adorable and earnest as Sister Mary Leo, the innocent young novice who dreams of being a prima ballerina.
Dee Martin is outstanding as Sister Mary Amnesia. A crucifix fell on her head and she can’t remember who she is. Ms. Martin often steals the show, especially during “So You Want to be a Nun.” Again, no spoilers; suffice it to say Ms. Martin proves herself to be an adept multi-tasker.
Also outstanding is April Keogh as Sister Robert Anne, the streetwise gym teacher from Canarsie who just wants “to be a star,” yet is relegated to the role of understudy. She does eventually get the spotlight, though, and when she does, Ms. Keogh glitters brightly.
Patti Hautsch, as Sister Mary Myopia, the inept spotlight runner, and Pat Speed and Kathy Wever as Sisters Mary John and Mary Ringo, security guards with rulers, do a great supporting job, not only as chorus but also in enhancing the atmosphere of a Catholic school. Brother Joe, played by Mr. Abramowitz, serves as stagehand and occasional punctuation for silly jokes. Brother Bobby (Bobby Peterson, also musical director) accompanies the sisters at the onstage piano, with the unseen Brother Zach on drums.
Real-life sisters (familial, not religious) Jayne Freedman and Diana Horn co-directed, with Ms. Freedman also serving as choreographer. The result of this collaboration is a very funny, engaging and finely tuned family theatrical event that you will not want to miss.
‘Nunsense’ is presented by Riverhead Faculty and Community Theatre at Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, 18 Peconic Ave., Riverhead. Performances continue Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 22 and 23, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 24, at 2 p.m.
Tickets: adults, $15; students, $7.50. Email [email protected] or visit rfct.org. Tickets are also available at Wedel Signs, 705 West Main St., Riverhead (631-727-4577) or Bach/Grazina Orthodontics 235 Osborn Ave., Riverhead (631-727-2655).