Theatre Review: "Nunsense"
by Jonathan Warman
Nunsense creator Dan Goggin more or less stumbled on the idea of writing a comic musical about nuns in the early 1980s and it's clear that he has a knack for making affectionate fun of the sisters. And that's really all Nunsense is, affectionate, harmless, silly fun – diverting, for sure, but not a millimeter deeper than that.
The show follows five nuns from the Little Sisters of Hoboken, who put on a benefit for burial costs when one of their own, a terrible cook named Sister Julia, accidentally poisons to death 52 fellow nuns. There's very little plot; it would be easy to call it contrived, but that would suggest that Goggin had some anxiety about making Nunsense plausible.
On the contrary, he shrewdly avoids showing any evidence of being concerned about anything but making sure an evening's worth of nun jokes – some clever, some cliché – land effectively. Song titles tell the story: "Nunsense is Habit-Forming," "Baking with the BVM" (Blessed Virgin Mother, that is), "Holier Than Thou" and so forth.
The tunes Goggin wrote to go along with those titles are nonchalant pastiches of traditional musical comedy. They're not particularly memorable, but they are pleasantly bouncy, serve the comic timing and then get out of the way.
Goggins' most successful creation in this particular show (he's written a bunch of other “nun vehicles” since this one first hit 25 years ago) is Sister Mary Amnesia who lost her memory when a cross fell on her. She's the most orginal character here, a real gift to an actress, and Jeanne Tinker happily plays her with enthusiastic, daffy athleticism.
In the final analysis, Nunsense is good old-fashioned fun, and nothing more. Which is both its blessing and its curse.
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For more reviews and interviews by Jonathan Warman, see dramaqueennyc.blog.