School's in for the summer with the Golden Apple's Late Nite Catechism.
By Kay Kipling
It’s true: You really don’t have to be Catholic to enjoy Late Nite Catechism, now playing at the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre.
As it happens, I did attend Catholic school for a number of years, and even before the show started, the classroom set, with its chalkboard, attendance chart, statue of Mary and crucifix summoned up memories in (or struck fear into) my heart. But many of the audience members on press night did not raise their hands when asked if they spent their formative years under the tender or not so tender guidance of nuns, and they still roared as the evening went on.
Late Nite Catechism has been something of a phenomenon ever since its conception (immaculate or not) back in 1993 in Chicago; it’s traveled to every state in the country as well as making stops in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. The Golden Apple production features Nonie Newton-Breen as the sister in charge of an adult catechism class, and, after eight years of touring in the role, she clearly has the part down.
"Sister" Nonie Newton-Breen in Late Nite Catechism.
There are certain set bits in Late Nite Catechism, including a segment called “Saint/Not a Saint,” where Sister leads the audience in determining which one of five saints should be eliminated from the heavenly rolls. (Don’t worry, she gives you plenty of information about each to help decide.) But sometimes it’s hard to tell where the script ends and the more improvisational part begins. That’s due in large part to Newton-Breen’s skills; her improv roots, honed at Chicago’s famed Second City, are obvious here (as is that Chicago accent) as she’s able to work easily with the audience, whether asking questions about their childhood memories or scolding its more scantily clad female members. (“Always ask yourself, ‘What would Mary wear?’” she advises.)
Newton-Breen is capable of delivering that withering look all teaching nuns seem to have perfected, but she’s also adept at displays of compassion and at being down to earth as her character copes with the changes in the Catholic Church that have been wrought ever since Vatican II. There are great comedy lines already there for her to use, but some of the biggest laughs come in response to questions from the audience (which she may or may not have heard before by now) that she manages to play off with impeccable comic timing.
Whether you’re searching for definitive answers about Limbo or the difference between venial and mortal sin, or just for a bit of nostalgia dressed up in a nun’s habit, Late Nite Catechism should get your attention, just like a smart rap across the knuckles with a ruler. Oh, and did I mention there are prizes?
Late Nite Catechism continues through July 26; for tickets call 366-5454 or go to thegoldenapple.com.