CATHOLIC SCHOOL GIRLS by Casey Kurtti, the current offering at 2nd Story Theatre in Warren, follows MASS APPEAL and continues the theater's exploration of the Catholic Church in the second half of the late, lamented Twentieth Century. While MASS APPEAL concentrated on the masculine side of the Church (priests and would-be priests), CATHOLIC SCHOOL GIRLS focuses on the distaff side by following the school lives of four grammar school girls and the nuns who teach them at St. George's School in Yonkers. Four actresses play the girls and each takes a turn playing a different nun. Unlike a show like NUNSENSE, which is played for laughs, Kurtti's play explores both the lighter and darker sides of the girls experience; sometimes it's funny, and sometimes it hurts. You don't have to be Catholic, but it helps.

SCHOOL GIRLS will rise or fall on the strength of its performances and director Ed Shea has assembled an excellent cast and the four actors (Lara Hakeem as Maria Therea/Sister Mary Germaine; Valerie Westgate as Elizabeth/Sister Mary Thomasina; Erin Olson as Colleen/Sister Mary Lucille; and Ashley Hunter Kenner as Wanda and the endearing Sister Mary Agnes) deliver the goods. Adults playing children is low-hanging fruit for comic actors and each of the four women has a really good time first learning the rules as second graders and subsequently learning to question them and break them as they grow older. While fun and games are, well, fun and games, it is in the dark places that this play shines. All of the performances are good, Olson is particularly affecting as girl publicly humiliated by a nun when she is surprised by her first period and positively terrifying as the heavily brogued, ruler-to-the-knuckles Sister Mary Lucille. In contrast to the other nuns, Kenner's Sister Mary Agnes is all sweetness, as she uses her deafness to her, and the girls, advantage.

Max Ponticelli's created a deceptively simple set-four desks (I think one of them was mine from St. Lawrence in Centredale) against a black background and black arches, which are not visible until Steve Mclellan's lighting illuminates them at curtain. They are the anti-stained glass, just black. Whoever selected the music playing as the audience takes its seat-the Beatles, the Four Seasons, the Temptations, the Supremes-nailed it. Ron Cesario's school uniforms were great, but putting the nuns in habits does not seem like it would have been that difficult.

It's worth the price of the ticket.

CATHOLIC SCHOOL GIRLS by Casey Kurtti , running Downstage at 2nd Story Theatre until Sunday, April 24, has a running time of ninety minutes, including an intermission. Performances are at 7:30 Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2:30 on Sundays. Tickets are $30.00, $20.00 for anyone twenty-one or younger, and $10.00 for those who have the foresight to go on preview weekend (too late for this show). 2nd Story Theatre is located at 28 Market St., in Warren. The box office can be reached at 401. 247. 4200 or at The venue is handicap accessible with a lovely accessible bathroom.

photo credit: Richard W. Dionne, Jr.

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From This Author Larry O'Brien

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