With Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler” on hold background music for the virtual production of Stages Late catechism in Las Vegas: a sister rolls the dice!, the audience can prepare for an entertaining Vegas-themed fundraising parody.
If you’ve never seen Maripat Donovan’s precedent Late night catechism plays starring Sister, the brash and funny nun who will tell it like it is, you are going to be in for a treat. Each has a different theme, and this one explains how Covid-19 has been a disaster for the Catholic Church‘s fundraising. With her pronounced talent for arm twisting, Sister is the perfect candidate to create a successful fundraiser for Saint Bruno. Its objective: drink, dance and play (knowing that “the House always wins”, of course).
And star Denise Fennell, a familiar face here in Houston, having played Sister for Stages in the past, tips the scales in the House’s favor. Fennell is an accomplished actress and natural comedian, with perfect timing and a real rapport with audience members that is hard to achieve. So, you can imagine how I marveled at his ability to accomplish this through Zoom.
It was like, well, a miracle.
Fennell walked out with blazing guns, making us all laugh as she scolded the virtual audience, saying, “I could hear everything you were saying before class started.” It’s even funnier than just spreading the stereotypes of harsh nuns in Catholic schools because she really has Is reveal what some people were saying before.
And while there was a little internet glitch with Zoom, Fennell handled it with aplomb: “We can’t explain the internet, it’s kind of like God. “
She offers the unique and ironic take on Sister’s life: Yes, the pandemic caused her to ‘drink a day’, but the silver lining is that she can bring us all together thanks to the magic of Zoom, allowing the show to continue. She does this as part of the Catholic school room (we are her adult Sunday school class), and I love this scene (thanks to Jodi Bobrovsky) with her books, a Texas flag and the saints on the wall in frames. It looks like a real classroom, a podium and all, although it will be turned into a glitzy Vegas venue for Sister’s fundraising games.
Between berating audiences for our transgressions and commenting on the Pope, Fennell has a few jokes that provide a common thread to other productions, but she also makes this performance special for the Houstonians, mentioning the Astros and the February Deep Freeze.
And, of course, there are the ad-libs, a staple of any Sister show – my favorite being if you’re Protestant, you don’t believe in Purgatory, so your religion is Pass / Fail. Another highlight of the evening? When she admired the 80 by 60 painting of two members of the public, exclaiming, “You must be charged,” before adding that she will need it for the silent auction of her fundraiser. Fennell makes the moment easy, but it’s not.
Sister became a “certified magician” so she could do magic for her fundraiser, but the most magical thing about Sister rolls the dice! is that while you never know what might happen, you can be confident that under Fennell everything will be fine.
It’s fun to have fun in a show that is meant to be fun; It could be the perfect production pick in a year that, well, hasn’t been all that fun.
May 13-23. Starting at $ 25. In line. 713-527-0123. More info and tickets on www.stagetheatre.com.