A New York indulgence: Charles Busch's 'The Divine Sister'
Tuesday night, we caught a show I had seen last November while here for the Baltimore Symphony's Carnegie Hall gigs -- "The Divine Sister," written by and starring the, well, divine, Charles Busch at the SoHo Playhouse. I thought at the time Robert should see it, too, since he's the world's most devoted fan of vintage Hollywood and this play resounds with references to the good olds days, with particularly emphasis on the irresistible Rosalind Russell.
So there we were Tuesday with other folks who braved the cold and blustery night to drink in the antics of a Mother Superior (think Roz Russell in "Trouble With Angels" and its sequel), and her heroic efforts to save St. Veronica's with her brash sidekick, Sister Acacius (the Mary Wickes role, of course).
It's an awfully clever show, right down to the send-up of "The Da Vinci Code" and any number of other twists, turns and treats -- a splash of "His Girl Friday," complete with overlapping dialogue; a quick nod to "Gypsy." And, since we're talking nuns, we're talking singing nuns, and that, too, results in some amusing moments in the production.
a superlative Mother Superior, just as you would expect; his ready-for-my-close-up reactions shots are terrifically funny just by themselves.
The rest of the cast matches the creator for energy and distinctive tics. Julie Halston is a hoot as Acacius. With a high-pitched, nearly impenetrable German accent, Alison Fraser's mysterious Sister Walburga is a riot. Jennifer Van Dyck's monologue as the rich, defiantly atheistic Mrs. Levinson is a little tour de force all its own.
Colorful work comes as well from Jonathan Walker in a couple of plot-thickening roles and Marcy McGuigan as the oddball novitiate Agnes (she's actually the standby for that part, normally played by Amy Rutberg, but McGuigan happened to play it both times I caught the show).
Delivering a 90-minute jolt of of humor, silliness, satire and, yes, even affection, "The Divine Sister" is, to paraphrase from "Auntie Mame," an old-fashioned, campy miracle, that's what it is.