An Actor’s Nightmare and Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All for You
Two One-Acts written by Christopher Durang
Directed by Hallie Baran
Presented by DOMA Theatre Co.
Christopher Durang is a prolific and highly awarded playwright in addition to his busy work as an actor—although the actor part is irrelevant here since we’re talking about two of his one-acts at The MET on Santa Monica Blvd. If you don’t know of him, you should familiarize yourself soon and once you learn about those fancy Harvard and Yale degrees in his background, feel free to genuflect.
These one-acts were written to be performed as companion pieces since the cast can double in both, just like gum or floor wax. The one act performed first—Actor’s Nightmare—is the story of a supposed theatre-goer who is thrust on stage to comedic results. According to many dream interpretation sources, to dream that you are in a play is a representation of all the roles you play in your waking life. Theatre people tell me that actors often have dreams that they are plopped into a production they know nothing about—the lines, the marks, the Actors or even the titles. (As a reviewer I have nightmares about finding parking on Theatre Row.) In Actor’s Nightmare, we have George—brilliantly played by Timothy Miller—as a accountant who has inadvertently wandered too far backstage. Clearly, Mr. Miller knows exactly where he is and what he’s doing because he plays George with befuddled and baffled perfection. George’s protestations go ignored as he is pushed on stage to star in a production of—Hamlet? Private Lives? Waiting for Godot? A Man for All Seasons? Yes! Not to mention a most moving, elegant and confused soliloquy. Events only become more nightmarish as cast and crew spin out of control toward a killer conclusion. Kudos to cast standouts Angela Todaro, Schoen Smith and Keri Blunt for giving 100% and playing so many different parts in both one acts.
You might already be familiar with at least the title of the second one act, Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All for You which is not Late Night Catechism. Don’t confuse them. (Although not brought up Catholic, both sisters scare the peewadden out of me.) First put up and well-awarded in 1980, Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All for You must surely be sweet catharsis for the boy who made confession then grew up to be a playwright and those of you who accomplished at least one of those things. Sister Mary I, who is played to frightening, knuckle-rapping, icy perfection by Second City alum Bernadette Birkett, is pissed. It seems that the good Sister is none too keen on recent changes in the church as dictated by the Ecumenical Council and is eager to keep us all on the straight and narrow. She primly, grimy educates us on heaven, hell and purgatory (which one are we in now?). In the middle of her lesson, however, she is visited by former students, now all grown up but still carrying their grudges. With the bitter memories of childhood and the new-found power of adulthood, they’ve all come to settle scores with the Sister. While we get to watch and wonder—whose turn is it to walk the dogma?
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