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STAGE REVIEW : 'Nunsense' Full of Black Habit Humor

February 23, 1995|ROBERT KOEHLER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"Way to go, Whoopi!"

Jacqueline Levy's fellow cast members in the Downey Civic Light Opera production of Dan Goggin's musical comedy, "Nunsense," were just joking around with Levy Friday night, improvising a bit on top of Goggin's script about five nuns putting on a wacky fund-raiser for the burial of several of their dead, food-poisoned colleagues at Mt. St. Helen's School.

The joke with the African American Levy was clearly meant to link "Nunsense" with Whoopi Goldberg and "Sister Act"--that other hit about singing nuns.

"Nunsense" encourages such fooling around, and director-choreographer John Vaughan's cast has the kind of relaxed comfort with this nunsensical material to play with the audience and each other at will.

When Laura Ware, as the school's mother superior, Sister Mary Regina, asked the audience if there were any Catholics in the crowd--and, stunningly, nobody raised a hand--she improvised. (Goggin's script assumes that every "Nunsense" audience contains at least one Catholic.)

On the other hand, Laurrinda Robinson as the streetwise Sister Robert Anne had no problem getting the Downey crowd revved up at the top of the show--and afterward--with a combination of sing-alongs and Arsenio-style arm whips.

The funniest of these nuns is Shirley Hatton as the clueless Sister Mary Amnesia, closely followed by Robinson's brassy persona and by Ware, especially when she gets tipsy. Levy provides solid support, though not the ringing Gospel-style voice called for, and Mary Murphy-Nelson milks every nutty drop from the dancing nun, Sister Mary Leo.

"Nunsense," Downey Civic Theatre, 8435 Firestone Blvd., Downey. Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends March 5. $21-25. (310) 923-1714. Running time: 2 hours, 5 minutes.

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