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THEATER REVIEW

Sister takes on the mystery of Magi

Maripat Donovan's 'Christmas Catechism' will amuse, regardless of your faith.

November 08, 2005|F. Kathleen Foley | Special to The Times

When she created the role of Sister at a late night show in Chicago, little did Maripat Donovan realize that she was creating a comic juggernaut that would roll onward for years, with no signs of slowing.

If you haven't caught her act yet, Sister is the formidably funny nun who has regaled audiences in the long-running solo hits "Late Nite Catechism" and "Late Nite Catechism 2."

The conceit of Donovan's shows is simple: A no-nonsense nun (Donovan) clad in the kind of full, floor-length habit that's seldom seen these days, teaches catechism classes to us, the happily captive audience. And pity the fool who flouts Sister's absolute authority.

Donovan and collaborators Marc Silvia and Jane Morris give that winning formula a seasonal flair in "Sister's Christmas Catechism," now playing at the La Mirada Center for the Performing Arts before transferring to the Laguna Playhouse. The setting is the same standard church auditorium seen in previous shows, only in this case, the premises are festooned with gaudy Christmas decorations.

Everything is ready for the big parish Christmas party, which will start right after class. Sit still and don't get fidgety. Sister has a lot of material to cover before you can hit the eggnog. And if you answer her questions correctly, you just may win a prize -- such as a kaleidoscope stenciled with a religious message.

Of course, the real humor lies in the improvisationally gifted Donovan's quick-witted interplay with the audience. The first act consists primarily of just such exchanges -- back-and-forth banter between Sister and her "students."

The second act contains more of a plot, albeit a wispy one. It seems that Sister, a fan of real-life television crime shows, is going to use her forensic expertise to solve just what happened to the Magi's gold, back on that first Christmas.

To that end, she summons various audience volunteers for her "re-enactment" Nativity, a full cast from Mary and Joseph on down to the ox and ass. Granted, in less gifted hands, this "CSI goes to Bethlehem" story line could have seemed merely belabored. However, that's a minor quibble.

Whatever your religious affiliations, Donovan will almost certainly make you laugh out loud. A gift-wrapped holiday treat, this "Catechism" should be opened early.

*

`Sister's Christmas Catechism'

Where: La Mirada Center for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd, La Mirada

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-

Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2:30 and 7 p.m. Sundays

Ends: Nov. 20

Price: $32-$40

Contact: (562) 944-9801 (714) 994-6310 www.lamiradatheatre.com

Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

Also

Where: Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach

When: Opens Nov. 21. 7:30 p.m. Mondays through Dec. 19. Call for additional dates

Ends: Dec. 23

Price: $39-$49

Contact: (949) 497-2787 Ext. 1 www.LagunaPlayhouse.com

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