http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2011/12/09/nuncrackers-a-sell-out-hit


Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - December 9, 2011

'Nuncrackers' a sell-out hit

Audience joins in with singing and laughing

by Glenn Wohltmann

If you were looking forward to a night with the nuns of Mount Saint Helen's in the current Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre's show of "Nuncrackers," you're out of luck. The show's sold out for its entire run.

"Nuncrackers" is writer Dan Goggins' fourth stage play featuring the little sisters of Hoboken, this time doing a cable-access TV special in their convent basement.

If you've seen TVRT's two other "Nunsense" productions, you have an idea of the humor involved and will probably recognize the cast, since a number of them seem to have gotten into the habit of playing nuns.

If you haven't seen "Nunsense," think "The Sound of Music" on laughing gas. You don't have to know that Mother Superior Mary Regina (Peggy Coleman) is a former circus performer, or that second-in-command Sister Mary Hubert (Shari Oret) hopes to become Mother Superior, or that Sister Mary Paul Amnesia (Joan Evans) lost her memory when a crucifix fell on her head, to enjoy "Nuncrackers."

The members of the audience serve as the people in the studio for the cable access show, getting rid of theater's fourth wall by inviting the audience to sing along, talking with them before the show starts, and involving them in Secret Santa drawings.

The show, which runs through Dec. 18, may be short on plot -- finding a last-minute replacement after the injury of Sister Mary Leo (Shawna James), who wants to be the world's first Ballerina nun, and a search for stolen Christmas gifts -- but makes up for it in comedy.

Of note was "All I Want for Christmas (is a one-night stand)" by streetwise Brooklyn nun Sister Robert Anne (Suzanne Henry), which is about her dreams for an appearance at Carnegie Hall; "In the Convent," a parody of the Village Peoples' "In the Navy," complete with hats; and Father Virgil (Brian FitzMaurice) as Julia Child.

The showstopper was the penultimate song, "It's Better to Give," which showcased Oret's singing talent.

Coleman, Oret, Evans and Henry may by now be familiar to TVRT audiences; all are reprising their prior roles as nuns of Mount Saint Helens convent.

Also worth noting is the handful of talented young singers and dancers, most of them from middle schools in Pleasanton, who made up the Mount Saint Helens chorus; Maria (Emily Joy Kessel) in particular, stood out as much for being cute as for her performance.

One more thing worth mentioning is the value of a willing audience. Laughter is contagious -- which is why laugh tracks came about -- and it seemed the entire audience was infected at Saturday night's performance at the Studio Theatre on Serpentine Lane in Pleasanton.

With "Nuncrackers" sold out and a hit, TVRT is looking toward its next big production, "Annie," which begins next month.

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