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THEATER BEAT

'Sister Mary Ignatius' Is Satisfyingly Silly

October 21, 1994|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY

A some-odd-decade ago, Christopher Durang's "Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You" was banned in St. Louis, that great Catholic bastion of the Midwest, resulting in a media outcry and earnest editorials about censorship.

Today it's hard to understand what all the fuss was about. The character of Sister Mary (Diana Bellamy) is still hilariously horrifying, but in light of recent scandals concerning pedophilic priests, Durang's nun seems more quaint than genuinely shocking.

Geo Hartley, who has directed the current production at his own Theatre Geo, displays the fine sense of the ridiculous requisite in the staging of Durang but fails to hone the play to a cutting edge. Played strictly for laughs, the production may not succeed as the anti-dogmatist tract Durang intended, but it is satisfyingly silly.

Religious ramifications aside, this is essentially a showcase for Bellamy, who plays the lovable, hateable, mind-bogglingly intolerant nun of Durang's piece. When Bellamy is good, she is very, very good--when she's not going up on her lines, that is.

In the evening's opener "The Actor's Nightmare," a hapless accountant (Philip Abrams) gets trapped onstage in an ever-mutating production that shifts dizzyingly from one theatrical style to another. This companion piece to "Sister Mary" is also played strictly for laughs--but then, unlike "Sister Mary," it's supposed to be.

* "Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You" and "The Actor's Nightmare," Theatre Geo, 1229 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles. Sundays only at 7 p.m. Ends Oct. 30. $12. (213) 466-1767. Running time: 2 hours, 5 minutes.

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