[ON STAGE]It's Holy Rollin' in the AislesObedience and chastity may be the main virtues in some convents, but not on this stage, in a Korean version of the play "Nunsense."
Five nuns are holding a fund-raising variety show in a high school gym to raise money to bury 12 fellow sisters. They died after eating poisoned stew and are currently being stored in a freezer in Papua New Guinea, at a leper colony where the nuns had been serving as Catholic missionaries.
The five survivors, Sisters Regina, the mother superior; Hubert, Amnesia, Maria and Mary Leo, escaped Sister Julia's deadly "kimchi sausage stew" because they were playing bingo while the others dined. Their mission is to transport the bodies back to Korea for proper burial.
Sister Amnesia desperately seeks to regain her memory and find her lost identity. Maria, played by the experienced stage actor Yun Seok-hwa, wishes for a solo career during the fund-raising concert and shares her dream in her song, "I Just Want to be a Star." Hubert, a faithful senior nun, is contemptuous toward the archbishop who gave her a man's name of baptism.
Mary Leo confesses the difficulties of acting devout when she still prefers to wear pretty pajamas rather than "penguin suits" to bed. The mother superior, played by veteran actress Park Jeong-ja, wants to control the sudden chaos in the convent, but gets caught in her own flaws. Just before the second act ends, she accidentally swallows a stimulant and goes crazy.
Written and originally directed by Dan Goggin, a former seminarian who says he based many of the play's anecdotes on his own experiences at Catholic schools, the show is filled with side-splitting jokes and spontaneous audience quizzes conducted by Sister Amnesia.
"Nunsense" is faithful to the spirit of the off-Broadway original in this extended run in Seoul...even if the poisoned soup that felled the nuns is kimchi stew instead of vichyssoise, as in the original.
The nuns' reminiscences about growing up Catholic may trigger some nostalgia among Catholics, and may also be a vehicle for the church to soften its stiff and somber reputation.
Indeed, the audiences have been sprinkled with Buddhist monks as well, demonstrating that this show has broader appeal than just narrow sectarian interest.
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by Park Soo-mee