by Vicki Quade & Maripat Donovan
Golden Apple Dinner Theatre
25 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota, 941-366-5454, 800-652-0920
June 2 through July 26, 2009

Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker

There's plenty of class as Sister (Nonie Newton-Breen) both teaches and recalls what her students (the audience, Catholics in particular) should know about faith, morals, and a sound religious education after Vatican II.  The late '50s church may be changing but Sister's still in her heavy habit and her classroom retains a typical blackboard, on which saints' names figure prominently. Palmer method alphabet script samples are shown above; erasers, below; bulletin boards, at each side; wood desk in front.

A few jokes are stretched out. One gal in the audience often gets chided for a low cut blouse. Those who went to public school learn their parents didn't care all that much about them. Saints, as in a reality show, are ticked off or confirmed on an officially accepted list as the life and accomplishments of each are hilariously detailed and voted on.

For answering questions from the catechism, "students" receive prizes like glow-in-the-dark rosaries, holy cards, medals. Much sought after by sellers in today's local real estate market is the award of a little statue of St. Joseph. Buried upside-down in lawn or garden, facing the house, it will lead to a sale. Sister cautions use of just the right protocol, lest there be no takers or else the neighbors get them.

With abundant improv, the show changes a lot or little each performance.  When I attended, a Seventh Day Adventist surprisingly answered a question too tough for several (justly upbraided) Catholics. One woman revealed with quavering voice a resentment at being mistakenly hit as a 5 year-old entering first grade! Sister wisely told her to "get over it." I stumped Sister on identifying the doctrine of the Mystical Body; she explained, instead, Transubstantiation. But it would have been impolite to correct her, though it's hoped Newton-Breen will "look it up."

Small wonder that Sister's habit strongly resembles the traditional one of the Sisters of Mercy (RSM), for actress Newton-Breen more than does Justice to her role. With this rare departure from its own typically large-scale musical productions, Golden Apple Dinner Theatre is serving up a delightful entertainment, preceded by themed meals, adding up to a 2 hour, 50 minute economic bargain.

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