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Theater Shows
Late Nite Catechism

Enroll in a class of Sister's sharp religious humor.

centerstage reviewed this performanceReviewed by Centerstage!Go Chicago!

Royal George Theatre Center
1641 N. Halsted St.
Chicago, IL 60614 Map This Place!Map it
$20 - $50



Saturday8 p.m.
Sunday3 p.m.
Thursday8 p.m.

reviewed performanceCenterstage Show Review
Reviewer: Joseph Bowen
Saturday May 05, 2001

This is the original review of the show when it featured Patti Hannon at the Ivanhoe Theatre. The Royal George information above is correct.

Late Nite Catechism opened at the Live Bait as a late-night offering in May of 1993. Since then, it has become a cult favorite. And for good reason. It really doesn't matter if you're a Catholic school alumnus, a practicing Catholic, a lapsed Catholic (there are a lot of them out there), or a non-Catholic. Sister has something for all of you. When you walk into the theater, you are in a typical Catholic school classroom, pictures of Christ on the cross, the Pope, a blackboard with the names of some saints written on it. Selections from The Sound of Music and other nun-related music play throughout, ending with The Hallelujah. Sister walks in, asks the audience to "simmer down", and it is clear what kind of evening we're in for. Sister tells us we're in adult Catechism class, and quizzes us on our Catholic trivia, and hands out glow-in-the-dark rosaries and acts of contrition for the correct responses. What struck me was how many of the people in the audience knew the answers to her questions.

Sister pulls out all of the Catholic stops, all of the cliches. She goes through the four stages of the afterlife, comparing Purgatory to being grounded and calling Limbo "the nursery of Heaven". She shows us the little stool that she made from the rulers that she broke on her students (she partially sheepishly, partially proudly admits that she has three of them at home). She pines for the good old days. The hey-day of Catholic education. St. Christopher statues on dashboards. She waxes nostalgic about the children in her Catholic school classes, and the unfortunate children who did not get to go to Catholic school, "the Jewish kids", she says with pity, and "Publics", whose parents didn't love them enough to send them to Catholic school.

Upon finding four young women in the front row with short skirts, she runs around trying to find cocktail napkins to cover up their legs. She then asks us to vote on the worthiness of some questionable saints, but it's not necessarily democratic "the classroom is not a democracy", says she. You get the feeling through all this, though, that the authors of the play are "winking" at you. This play is, more than anything else a comment on the absurdity of Catholicism. She relates Catholicism to taking a "leap of faith right off the reality cliff". A lapsed Catholic's dream.

Patti Hannon shines as the South-Side born, Baywatch-watching nun. She does flying nun jokes ("they like me, they really like me"), talks about the Holy Trinity ("three, three, three Gods in one"), and takes impromptu questions from the audience. When asked whether she thinks that women will ever be priests, she likens the doctrine of the current Pope to "papal bull". She is wonderful with the audience. Her manner is strict but lovable, walking through the audience dispensing her rosaries acts of contrition, keeping a running joke about the bad student in the second row funny throughout, assigning an audience member to be responsible for the rest of the group at intermission.

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