“Sister’s Christmas Catechism: The Mystery of the Magi’s Gold” – Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts

This review aired on KBAQ December 19, 2011


Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
Scottsdale, AZ

Patti Hannon has Sister, the portly, sharp-witted Catholic nun teacher down to a science.  She’s played the part in several variations of the one-woman show at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts since 2000.  Before Scottsdale, Hannon played it in Boston, Chicago, and New York.  The current version, “Sister’s Christmas Catechism: The Mystery of the Magi’s Gold,” is a revival of the popular holiday show that’s played many times before.

“Sister’s” shows aren’t really theater but are stand-up comic routines set in a strict Catholic school class.  This one teaches about Christ’s birth as Sister solves the search for the Magi’s gold.

Sister sprinkles in lots of slams, jokes, and wisecracks about the bizarre things that seem to happen in rigid Catholic schools plus there’s lots of audience by-play.  Hannon is a master at chatting with theatergoers who become her students so much of the show is improvisation.  Although Hannon works from a script by Maripat Donovan, Jane Morris, and Marc Silva, I suspect no two shows are the same.  The best performances, no doubt, come from the audiences who give Hannon the most stupidity as she twists the material into funny bits and inane situations.

At the Christmas show’s opening night, Hannon was blessed with some wacky people who sat near the front and were anxious to have Hannon pick on them.  You actually wonder if these funny audience members are plants who are really part of the show to provide Hannon with the endless malarkey.

The second act gets draggy as Sister casts a living Nativity.  After using eager audience members who seem happy to act like fools, Sister costumes and poses them.  It’s initially funny but it grows contrived, lasts way too long, and gets tediously repetitious.  The audience laughed at the stupidity even though it’s not really that clever partly because Hannon is a good ring leader who treats her volunteers with respect.

Don’t go expecting “Sister’s Christmas Catechism…” to be real theater; go instead if you are entertained by these comic shenanigans and if this inane banter entertains you rather than bores you with the bland, expected, and predictable humor.

“Sister’s Christmas Catechism: The Mystery of the Magi’s Gold” is OK nightclub entertainment that lasts too long at well over two hours and the Christmas version continues through December 23.  The show then takes a break until January 21 when two versions play alternate performances until March 26.  For tickets, call the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts box office at 480-499-8587 or order tickets online at www.ScottsdalePerformingArts.org

Grade: C