BLOOMSBURG - If any Catholics yearn to return to the days of yesteryear, when masses were in Latin, Fridays were meatless and nuns cracked students' knuckles with their rulers, "Late Night Cathecism" will trigger lots of memories.
For a hilarious lesson in the good old days of Catholicism, the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble's one-woman comedy has 7:30 p.m. performances tonight and Friday with 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. shows on Saturday and Sunday at the Alvina Krause Theatre, 226 Center St.
A "Presented Event" (as opposed to one of the regular Subscription Series attractions) fills a space on the calendar while the ensemble members work on other projects.
New York City-based actress Colleen Moore, pictured, is the sole performer in the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble’s production of “Late Night Catechism.”
"Late Night Catechism" has a recognizable name and is being marketed as family fare to a broad audience, including church groups, whether Catholic or not.
Unlike the other "religion" plays ("Nunsense" and its sequels and "Sr. Mary Ignatius Tells It All") the focus in "... Catechism" is one stern but ultimately fun-loving nun's take on the Catholic Church, past and present.
The show is partially scripted in that there is a basic storyline, but the show's success often depends on the nun's interaction with the audience and witty improvisation geared to a particular audience at any given performance. This is a form of participatory theater where the nun is the only performer on stage with members in the audience becoming her catechism students.
New York City-based actress Colleen Moore plays the fictitious nun. Playing the irrepressible nun has been habit-forming for Moore with her national tours and off-Broadway portrayals. Moore acknowledged that some insight into the nun's thinking may be traced to her attending Catholic elementary and high schools in Alexandria, Va.
"Late Night Catechism" is structured around a questionnaire sent out by the Vatican - and yes, that really did happen - about which mythical saints should be de-canonized. For the nun, who is teaching an after-hours adult class at Bruno's Parish, this question is a cause for grave concern.
"Times are tough. Churches are closing. And some saints are being laid off. You remember Saint Christopher? Now he's just Mr. Christopher."
As "Late Night Catechism" displays both the sister's warm and humorous side, she comes across as a real nun, not a satire of one. With her black habit and regulation-ordered rimless glasses, the nun is an imposing, highly opinionated instructor in the faith.
Although "...Catechism" was written 20 years ago, BTE rightfully claims that the play's humor is not dated. The script allows the nun to laugh at the quirks of the church while simultaneously embracing them.
She is at times benevolent, awarding "students" in the audience some nifty prizes, including glow-in-the-dark rosaries. But the naughty may find themselves pulled up onto the stage and forced to sit in the corner for not paying attention. So if called upon, "students" better answer in complete sentences. Also, ladies in the audience are forewarned not to put on lipstick or chew gum or they'll hear "Spit it out. Now!"
The first half runs almost 70 minutes and after intermission the brief second half features several Catholic trivia questions.
"Late Night Catechism" delivers a lesson for Catholics and non-Catholics in how to laugh. (The good nun will gladly explain for non-Catholics the difference between a venial and mortal sin.)
But maybe Catholics might snicker a bit louder at the stories of the mission babies, and inspiring tales of the martyrs.
With its mix of improv and laughter, with light humor and just plain fun, "Late Night Catechism" should jump-start the second half of BTE's season.
For more information or to make reservations, contact the box office at 800-282-0283 or 570-784-8181.