Diversionary cast are master technicians, will bring audiences back for seconds
By Charlene Baldridge | SDUN Theater Critic
Charles Busch is an actor, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, director and exceptionally beautiful drag artist. Among other Broadway and off-Broadway plays, he wrote “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom,” “Psycho Beach Party” and “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife.”
Currently playing at Diversionary Theatre through June 30 – and directed by Glenn Paris of ion theatre – is a rip-roaringly funny and adept production of Busch’s latest, “The Divine Sister,” which sends up every musical, theatrical and film nun you’ve ever seen.
Daren Scott plays the role of the titular sister, a mother superior of a Pittsburgh parochial school and nunnery. Mother Superior’s biggest concern is the possible closure of their crumbling facilities due to lack of funding. The second is Agnes, a young postulant (played by Lauren King) who thinks she sees visions – the most recent being St. Thomas Aquinas in a piece of rhubarb pie – hears voices and performs miracles. Other nuns are Sister Acacius (Yolanda Franklin), an old friend of Mother Superior from prior to them taking vows of poverty and chastity, and the recently arrived Sister Walburga (Jacque Wilke), who stalks and skulks around looking like something smells very bad. She’s up to no good.
Other characters are the wealthy widow, Mrs. Levinson (Maggie Carney) and her houseguest, Jeremy (Dangerfield G. Moore). Both Carney and Moore play other characters, the funniest of which is Carney’s portrayal of a bullied schoolboy named Tim.
Playgoers who’ve seen Busch’s works know they will be swept up in a breathless, wide-ranging, intelligent yet wacky ride that might be termed extreme parody: with music and mental gymnastics. Paris’s actors are master technicians whose performances will ripen to fine-tuned perfection over the run of the show, which merits a return visit – it’s packed with that much mayhem and mirth. Scott’s performance is one for the memory book.
Underlying sincerity plays a huge part in this type of comedy, tugging at the onlooker’s heartstrings even as the preposterous situation sinks in.
Matt Scott’s scenic design allows plenty of space for the physical comedy, which includes Mother Superior teaching Timmy how to swing a baseball bat and an entire school bazaar. Corey Johnston’s costumes are a hoot, especially Mrs. Levinson’s upper-class rags (with jeweled buttons) and the outfit Sister Walburga wears under her wimple. Peter Herman creates the outrageously funny wigs, Luke Olson the lighting, and Blair Robert Nelson the sound.
While you’re there, check out the ongoing elegance of the lobby and the powder-room upgrades. At last Diversionary looks like the quality establishment it is.
“The Divine Sister”
WHERE: Diversionary Theatre, 4545 Park Blvd. (University Heights)
WHEN: Thurs. – Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. and Monday, June 10 at 8 p.m. through June 30