Sunday, April 30, 1995

Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All for You & The Actor's Nightmare

by Christopher Durang

"Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You": I'm hesitant to call it only my second reading, since I was in it at 12 and probably read it dozens of times, but for simplicity's sake I will.  Coming back to it after a decade, I see that this is a very brave play, poking fun at the long-standing traditions of some fairly humorless people.  It flings homosexuality, abortion and single mothers into the fray, almost as a sidebar to the main controversy, rape and cancer in a world which a good God is supposed to rule.  Of course, it is a comedy, and it's very funny too, although much less so after the appearance of Diane and the others.  Sister Mary shooting Diane is absurd, but not that comic (the shooting of Gary, on the other hand – "I've sent him to Heaven!" – manages to be funny).  This is one of the best black comedies ever, guaranteed to offend: the best kind. 

"The Actor's Nightmare": I found a lot more meaning to this play this time than my first reading (and viewing) at age 12.  I had thought of it as just a surreal, extremely funny play, which it is, but there's also the fact that George has deep guilt about not going to a monastery, which figures into his torment.  In addition to being a send-up of the trappings of the theater and actors' airs, it's a comment on the Catholic Church's use of guilt as a power tool.  Mainly, though, it was a great comedy.  I laughed out loud reading it.

[Read twice – actually, heard and performed in dozens of times]

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