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THEATER : This Is No Weak 'Sister'

September 20, 1990|MARK CHALON SMITH

Let's get this out of the way at the top: Christopher Durang's "Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You" may offend some people. Satires are supposed to; the good ones find a greater truth that way.

The Costa Mesa Civic Playhouse production of this black comedy about a nun and her skewed zealotry has already angered plenty of folks, resulting in yet another controversy about art, free speech, public funding and censorship. Those wanting to shut it down condemn it as anti-Christian.

"Sister Mary" does try to expose what Durang sees as religious hypocrisies and contradictions, but the focus is really on moral and intellectual tyranny. Besides, even if Durang's target is Roman Catholicism, isn't that an institution strong enough to withstand criticism?

Regardless of the feelings this play generates, one thing can be said about the Costa Mesa production: It's a good effort, one that is generally true to Durang's intent and does not try to soft-pedal his style. It's not without flaws, but by Orange County community theater standards, this is a brave staging.

Director Stan Wlasick gets a valid performance from Roberta Kay as Sister Mary. Sure, Kay occasionally lets her portrayal veer into a parody of Dana Carvey's Church Lady, but she also does much of her own with Durang's twisted sister. Mary Ignatius is a remarkable creation brimming with contradictions, and Kay has a grasp of what she's about.

As usual, "Sister Mary" is teamed with another Durang one-act, "The Actor's Nightmare." This diversion about an accountant who finds himself tossed into a series of dramas he's unprepared for is as harmless as "Sister Mary" is provocative.

What: Christopher Durang's "Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You" and "The Actor's Nightmare."

When: Through Sept. 30. Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m..

Where: 661 Hamilton St., Costa Mesa.

Whereabouts: San Diego Freeway to Harbor Boulevard. Head south on Harbor to Hamilton Street. Go west on Hamilton.

Wherewithal: $8 and $9.

Where to Call: (714) 650-5269.

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