Amanda Hebert returns to one of her most beloved characters, as a sister in “Late Nite Catechism”. The hit comedy, which only takes place this weekend (closing June 4), was one of the most requested shows by audiences at Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts.
Don’t even think about chewing gum.
Summer is here and school may be over, but audience members at Rivertown Theaters for the Performing arts this weekend had better sit up straight, raise their hands before speaking, and turn off the lights. mobile phones.
Failure to meet these standards will earn a freezing gaze from the sister who will leave the culprit shivering with memories of the punishments of yesteryear involving rulers, kneeling on rice and making the baby Jesus cry.
That stern look, however, comes with a twinkle in the eye ensuring two hours of continuous laughter as Amanda Hebert returns to her favorite role as a sister in “Late Nite Catechism“. The class is in session for the Popular Show until this weekend (June 3-4) at the Kenner Theater.
The solo comedy by playwrights Maripat Donovan and Vicki Quade has been in demand more than any other show by their audiences, producers Gary Rucker and Kelly Fouchi have said. Its timeless popularity remains evident in the current staging.
The show premiered in 1993 and went on to become a cult hit with lengthy prints in Chicago, Boston and New York. It opened in New Orleans in 1999 and achieved huge success with repeated performances in local theaters and in parishes across town.
As a sister (although she roasts each of her students with their first name, middle name and confirmation name, she has no other name, just “Sister”), HÃ©bert fully embodies a nun of the old school in black and white dress with scapular, wimple and veil, as she dispenses black and white truths of the faith.
Explaining how Catholic faith and reason come together in seeking to understand, in the words of Saint Anselm, Sister reconciles Adam and Eve with Darwin’s theories, noting that God could have created the world in six days. âBut it could have been really long days,â she said. “Like dog years.” Explaining on evolution, she emphasizes that what separates man from the beast is having a soul. Well, that and “don’t be afraid of the vacuum cleaner”.
Hebert can start barking orders as soon as she enters, weaving her way through the audience of the Lagniappe Auditorium in Rivertown, but as she brings her adult Sunday school class back to school, she also reveals a modern sensibility. and a quick wit. Responses from members of the public quickly identify who grew up being taught by such nuns, as long-forgotten but deeply held attitudes and behaviors are soon restored.
Hands are raised in the hope of pleasing Sister with a correct answer (which could earn the lucky student a glowing rosary in the dark, a laminated holy card, or a small statue of a saint); refrains of âYes, sisterâ are given in unison; and during intermission, a number of women don everything from paper doilies to Kleenex on their heads to serve as chapel veils.
Although the show is scripted, every performance is different. The perpetual interaction with the public requires a great capacity for standing improvisation, in which HÃ©bert maintains his character without turning to caricature. HÃ©bert is as remarkably quick with her answers as she is quick-witted. With humor and precision, she willingly discusses questions of Catholic doctrine while answering a variety of spontaneous questions from the audience.
Funny nuns aren’t new to comedy. However, while Sister jokes about certain teachings or the lives of certain more dubious saints, HÃ©bert never attacks the faith. The show remains sharper than the large parody of the equally popular “Nunsense” series, but it never stoops to the meanness of earlier pieces such as “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You” by Christopher Durang.
Part of the show’s success is its celebration of what Sister calls “the peak of nun life” during the baby boom years of the late 1950s and early 1960s, when parishes and the parish schools were packed. Indeed, HÃ©bert gives Sister all the authority and energy of these devoted and cheerful, strong and intelligent, severe and gentle women who have taught children from generation to generation to read, write and treat each other. others and to pray.
âThe nuns were the most extraordinary women in the neighborhood,â she recalls. This love shines through in every performance. Hebert even ends each show with a melancholy call to remember and support these aging nuns today as their orders shrink in size.
While those who have been educated by such nuns will be drawn most thoroughly into the world of sisters, in a city that remains so culturally Catholic, “Late Nite Catechism” remains an evening of ecumenical theater that speaks with humanity and humor to all. public.
Don’t be late for class.