November 8, 1999
The internationally-acclaimed off-Broadway production Late Nite Catechism, directed by Patrick Trettenero, is currently in its second year in Seattle.
For those who have not yet had the chance to attend Late Nite, it is a not-to-be-missed gem of a show that provides an evening of hilarious entertainment.
Aubrey Manning, as Sister, is a one-woman dynamite who keeps her audience on their toes as they participate in her adult catechism class. With her round face and rosy complexion, spectacles, and habit, she makes the perfect nun, but it is her demeanor, her way with the audience, and the lines she zings out that authenticate her character's portrayal.
From the beginning, Manning sets the tone of the class with her reminders to sit up straight, keep both feet on the floor, and keep one's hands to oneself. She forces gum chewers to dispose of their gum in her special jar (which is filled with confiscated items), chastises women with low-neck dresses, insisting they cover up their cleavages with tissue, and requires her class to stand upon her entrance.
Sister's instruction is a combination of tales and traditions gathered from memories of growing up in parochial schools, along with Catholic dogma and stories of the saints. She enjoys quizzing her students about their knowledge in these areas and awards prizes for correct answers (glow-in-the-dark rosary beads, Virgin Mary figures, and religious cards).
Early on, Sister makes the humorous distinction between those educated in parochial schools and those who attended public schools. She insists on learning some of her students' names and regales those who have names of the saints, while criticizing those with "public" names.
The show involves heavy audience participation, which gives it fresh spontaneity and many uproarious moments. Sister covers everything from confession and penance, via ruler whipping, to the Immaculate Conception and stigmata. She laments over school tuitions and policies in today's parochial schools and speaks of being a "dying breed." What comes through during this two-hour production is a sense of Catholicism as a cultural experience that can be shared by those of all faiths.
Late Nite Catechism is currently running at A Contemporary Theatre. For ticket information, call 206-292-7676.