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Theater | STAGE REVIEW

The Campy Nun

This spoof at the Coast Playhouse steams with unrealized potential.

June 26, 1997|JANA J. MONJI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Flash-in-the-pan celebrity--and its costs--are nothing new. Yet there's something sublimely subversive when it's a nun known as "Soeur Sourire"--Sister Smile.

The production at the Coast Playhouse doesn't take this tale of "The Tragic and Horrible Life of the Singing Nun" far enough. The ensemble's steamy camp glows with potential. Unfortunately Blair Fell's spoof of this pop culture tragedy trivia is much too tame and underdeveloped to truly exploit all the lurid possibilities.

The real Singing Nun, Jeanine Deckers, hit all the points outlined here. She won a Grammy in 1963, gave all the money to her order, was later hounded by the tax man for the government's share and committed suicide with a female friend over her financial woes in 1985.

But this being Hollywood, Fell creates a "mostly fictional and certainly libelous" (according to the script) sexual twist featuring a repressed lesbian Jeanine de Tourment (Audrey Wasilewski), a lustful Mother Superior (a smoldering Khandi Alexander in Liz McGarrity's sexy nun's ware), a transvestite glam-girl sister (Clinton Leupp) and a bisexual priest (Tony Carlin).

And although Fell adds other prominent nuns from the 1960s (the Flying Nun and another singing nun named Maria), this never rises to the comedic level of LunaPark's "Highballs Ahoy!" It doesn't have the pacing, the intrigue and wildly vicious humor. It's more like a rather overlong telling of a very short joke.

BE THERE

"The Tragic and Horrible Life of the Singing Nun," Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. Thursdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 6 and 9 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends Aug. 17. $25-$30. (213) 660-8587. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.

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