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Monday, May 21, 2018
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Review: Nothing is sacred in ‘Divine Sister’

Nothing is holy about The Divine Sister, the uproarious comedy now at Stageworks. Nothing is off-limits either: God, nuns, religion, Jews, Germans, Jesus, feminism, racism, gays, lesbians, even “white people’s music.”

In this hilarious, highly-polished production, everyone’s sacred cow ends up as a burnt steak. That’s because Charles Busch’s play is an equal opportunity roast.

In case you are not familiar with the award-winning actor and playwright Charles Busch, it might help to know that his first hit was Vampire Lesbians of Sodom. It was initially performed as a skit in the Limbo Lounge, a gay bar in Manhattan in 1984.

Busch, who often performs as his own leading lady in drag, also is known for Psycho Beach Party and Die, Mommie, Die!, one of his many salutes to movie queens of the 1940s like Joan Crawford, Judy Garland and Loretta Young.

If you can recall super-sappy Hollywood flicks like The Bells of St. Mary’s or The Song of Bernadette, you’ll recognize the saccharine sweetness of lovely Agnes (Nicole Jeannine Smith), a wannabe nun who boasts of healing powers and of being able to see a saint’s face on a boy’s urine-stained underwear.

Matthew McGee is superior as the Mother Superior of the run-down Pittsburgh convent. The towering McGee, sporting lipstick and rouge, is equally awesome in a flowing black habit as well as in prim hat and gloves playing a Lois Lane-style reporter.

With excellent music, special effects and Karla Hartley’s fine direction, the cast moves swiftly and expertly. Jonelle Meyer and Alana Opie round out the group of nuns in Mother Superior’s nest. Spencer Meyers is the sole cast member to consistently retain his male identity.

As one character says, “Each man for herself.”

This production moves as swiftly as a vaudeville show, leaving no time for character development. In spite of this, Georgia Mallory Guy nails her character, a wealthy Jewish matron and patroness of atheism.

“Give me the religious zealots,” she intones. “At least you can depend on their stupidity.”

Between babies abandoned and found, phony miracles, sexual adventures and non-stop, over-the-top jokes, you’ll be laughing at Busch’s send-ups of a society mired in political correctness.

Just be prepared to swallow your own holy cow.

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