Climbing the industrial strength stairs (an elevator is available) to the third floor of the Royal George Theater, walking down the long corridor illuminated with religious paraphernalia and show reviews—all prepare you to enter the classroom of “Sister” Mary Zentmyer, complete with the cursive alphabet wall border, chalk boards, old wooden three-drawer desk, lectern, and junior chair. Religious music sets the mood of nostalgia, whether for Gregorian chant or the remains of a hootenanny mass. Welcome to LATE NITE CATECHISM.
Lots of participation at LATE NITE CATHECHISM
Sister is subbing for the pastor as instructor for the Adult CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) class, and she quickly assumes absolute control over her students. Zentmyer’s solo act is always tinged with a twinkling eye and a wry smile as she puts her unsuspecting CCDers through their Catholic paces. Sister is impeccably attired—from her veil carefully pinned into pleats at the back to prevent it interfering with her hands and arms, to her black oxfords that must be originals.
When you attend LATE NITE CATECHISM, prepare to be involved and entertained.
The class begins with a show of hands identifying Catholics in the room (a slight majority). Volunteers are asked to stand and state their complete names: first, middle and confirmation (no family names). All responses must be stated, “Sister, my name is Stephen, my middle name is Peter, and my confirmation name is Ricardo”. Responses must be complete sentences. Sister riffs on the names, funny bit and pieces from Lives of the Saints, usually about perverse deaths by stoning or flaying. The key name is confirmation, as this name separates Catholics from most other religions. There is lots of off-the-cuff repartee, involving audience members who choose to raise their hands, and sometimes those who don’t. Get a question wrong or get caught whispering and you may enter the “Circle of Silence” with your nose against a circle drawn on the black board, or sit in the junior chair facing the wall and the Act of Contrition. Your religion doesn’t matter, Sister knows how to poke fun at all of them. She refers to Methodists as “Catholics with money.” If you are Catholic, LATE NITE CATECHISM is double the fun.
Preserving part of religious history
Nuns are far fewer in numbers today, and mostly invisible due to donning modern dress. Most of the teachers in Catholic grade and high schools are no different than those in public schools, though many dioceses require they be Catholic. Playwrights Vicki Quade and Maripat Donovan perform a curatorial service, preserving the nuns in habits we knew and loved (or not) from the 40’s through the 80’s.
Photo courtesy of Nuns4Fun Entertainment Inc.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO. Click here to read — Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Note: an excerpt of this review appears in Theater in Chicago.