There is something mysterious about Denise fennel, who plays at STAGES REPERTORY THEATER in SISTER’S BACK TO SCHOOL CATECHISM: THE HOLY GHOST AND OTHER TERRIFIC TALES. I tried to cyber-harass the actress on her website, Facebook and Instagram, but there isn’t a lot of information other than beautiful pictures of her not in the habit of a nun. Audiences probably wouldn’t recognize her outside of her stage costume and wielding a ruler. She has become and will always be part of a tradition at Stages – the hilarious sister who has “taught” 8 courses over the years on the site.
In case you were wondering, this play is a largely interactive experience where a teaching nun from a Catholic school comes out and lectures the audience on interesting perspectives on today’s world and Halloween. Sister is ready to recoup the spooky holiday for Holy Church, and she is also ready to engage the public on what to watch and what to wear this season. To the delight of audiences, she covers horror movies, several gruesome stories of saints, and even throws a fashion show where you can dress up as an unlucky martyr to go cheat or treat. It’s quick, it’s funny, and also has a gentle soul which should find even the most die-hard Catholics embracing the sister’s ways.
Certainly there are elements of satire here, but the love of the sacred subject and the intelligence of the commentary make it authentic. The screenplay is written by Maripat Donovan who is in fact the woman who created the Sister and her late night Catechism. Donovan was a theater teacher and mostly worked in construction before turning his love of a severe nun into theatrical gold. But in this production we have Denise fennel don the habit, and you’d be hard pressed to understand that she didn’t help write it down too. Fennell inhabits the role so perfectly that many members of the audience assumed she was the real deal. She’s an agile improviser, and nothing has shaken her faith all night. It’s a flawless performance that will make anyone a believer. Fennell never breaks, and she has comedic crack timing that is displayed throughout the night.
It’s a great show for groups and those who want a good laugh about religious things. It helps if you are a Catholic to understand all the references, but anyone of any faith should understand pretty quickly where the sister is going with all of this. Be warned that if you dress inappropriately, you may be asked to cover up, not to chew gum, and to enter the theater without expecting to be reprimanded. Part of the fun of the evening is getting to know the audience while the sister quizzes and provokes them. You can see this 2 or 3 times during the race and have a different feel with each performance as it adapts to the house and its occupants. This is the eighth time that the sister has come here to prove that she is a hard habit to break.
This nun will run until October 13 at STAGES REPERTORY THEATER. Tickets can be purchased on their website at https://www.stadetheatre.com . You can also reach their ticket office by phone at (713) 527-0123. The show lasts around two hours and features a bathroom break in the middle to relieve yourself or participate in a wine and cracker communion.