Theater Review – Meshuggah-Nuns

It’s hard to believe that a musical can have seven sequels—we’re getting into a Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th number of installments here—but, lo and behold, playwright Dan Goggin has rustled that many for his Nunsense series. Meshuggah-Nuns, the fifth in the sequence, opened last week at the Westchester Broadway Theatre, where it will run until March 21.

This time, the Sisters of Hoboken head to the high seas, on the “Faiths of All Nations World Cruise” aboard the U.S.S. Golden Delicious. But, after a week of rough waters, the cast of ship’s scheduled entertainment (a production of Fiddler on the Roof) is laid up and the Sisters have to step in with their own variety of musical entertainment, aided by Howard, who was supposed to play Tevye (and still wears his costume).

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As with all of the Nunsense shows, the greatest strength is in creating a complete experience as opposed to a static play. Everything is in character: when you get to your table, a program from Eden Cruiselines awaits you, and pre-show announcements are made as if from a cruise director. There’s even a little audience participation, like a real lounge variety act.

And, since it is a lounge variety act, it’s best not to think of Meshuggah-Nuns as a musical. Sure, there’s singing, rudimentary dancing, and a few spoofs of popular Broadway shows and songs. Still, the play feels more like an evening of stand-up comedy. In fact, some of the bits are listed in the program alongside the musical numbers. There are corny puns, Laugh-In-style jokes, and some visual gags. The music mostly serves to highlight the punch lines, some of which—like most stand-up comedy acts—can feel awfully familiar.

Then again, there are only so many jokes you can make about nuns. (Or Sarah Palin, apparently, since a spot-on imitation found its way into the mix—how quickly are these sequels written, anyway?—and, though its accuracy was impressive, it relied on a Palin quote we’re all already sick of hearing.) Maybe that’s why Howard was brought in. He teaches the Sisters some Yiddish, finds common ground with the nuns in the guilt they all feel, and generally opens up a whole avenue of jokes previously unavailable to a production whose entire cast wears a habit. David Edwards, who plays Howard and has previously appeared in The Fantasticks and the first national tour of The Producers, is one of the few highlights of the production, and his monologue is the funniest of the night.

It’s worth noting that the Westchester Broadway Theatre is offering up some pretty good bargains right now. If you’d rather skip the meal, on Wednesdays you can pay $30 and just catch the show. If you buy a Thursday ticket for this show, you’ll get half off a Thursday ticket for Funny Girl, the next show. There are more family discounts and two-for-one deals offered through the Theatre’s website. We’re always in the mood for a bargain.

Photo by John Vecchiolla

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