kate west review
written and directed by Dan Goggin
West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles, 90068
opening January 20, 2005 for
7 weeks only
contact (323) 851-7977 or www.theatrewest.org
and dancing nuns are always funny, especially to lapsed Catholics, so the
musical "Nunsense" is inevitably a crowd pleaser. On the other hand
it can also come across a bit tired as in Theatre West's latest production of
this perennial favorite starring stage veterans Betty Garrett (best known as the
feisty landlady on television's "Laverne and Shirley"), Bridget Hanley,
Barbara Mallory, Lee Meriwether (one of the sexy elite chosen to play Catwoman
and a former Miss U.S.A., back in the day), Rhonda Stovey and Sandra Tucker.
cast is delightful, each member a gifted and experienced actress who knows how
to hold an audience in the palm of her hand, yet even they almost cannot overcome
the trite material. The story begins with the Little Sisters of Hoboken holding
a fundraiser to bury four of their order who succumbed to bad soup, now sitting
in kitchen refrigerators. The rest of the story is simply variety numbers, one
after the other, until random coincidences solve all of the problems in a rather
nun has a solo number in the spotlight, usually reflecting her inner desires and
musings. Lee Meriwether shines as Sister Robert Anne, the street-smart nun from
Brooklyn whose effortless banter and fantastic stage presence hold the audience
captive. She is truly the best thing in the show, a terrific lady and consummate
entertainer. She's old school. Betty Garrett is endearingly sweet as Sister Julia,
the cook who poisoned her fellow sisters and can't seem to get back on the right
track although the new material written especially for her seems a bit forced.
Writer/Director Dan Goggin might have been better off giving the script a complete
overhaul. Mother Superior is Sandra Tucker as Sister Regina, who oversees the
whole evening and has an amusing "drunk" scene. The rest of the cast,
Bridget Hanley, Barbara Mallory and Rhonda Stovey are also strong and take turns
addressing the audience and upholding the reality of a local high school benefit
of the more distracting elements is the set by Joseph M. Altadonna and Daniel
Keough. It is the set of "Grease," supposedly left there by the high
school students who are allowing the sisters to hold a benefit on their off night.
It would have been much better had the stage been simply a high school auditorium
setting. As it is, the background does not fit in with the story. Also the constant
topical references and inside jokes (ala cast members' ulustrious past credits)
grow a bit tedious. The company is obviously thrilled to be working with local
celebrities but we don't need to be reminded of it every other scene.
in all, the women are greatly entertaining but the show is a little too long.
It is amusing to have them venture into the audience every once in a while, turn
on the lights and talk to us but the show can be half as long and still tell its
simple story. The silly resolution at the end is quite sudden and again, rather
far-fetched. If you can sit through the evening, be my guest. The women are worth
it but the story is not.