Mother Superior gives unconventional film wisdom
June 22, 2007
By BETTY MOHR
Daily Southtown Theater Critic
If you come late, you can expect Mother Superior to scold you with a ruler. And if you're a woman who comes in wearing a revealing top, prepare to have the teaching nun help you cover up.
While these bits of humor will help many recall their youthful indiscretions in Catholic school, there is still more fun and laughs in "Sunday School Cinema," playing at the Royal George Theatre in Chicago.
The interactive show is different every time because audience members are encouraged to offer their favorite movies of the week for Mother Superior's review.
With unflagging improvisational charm, Elaine Carlson -- who also portrays Mother Superior in "Put the Nuns in Charge!" -- is a hoot as the nun who rebukes and responds to her charges.
For the show I attended, Carlson lambasted films such as "Shrek 3," "Night at the Museum," "The Departed" and "Snakes on a Plane." Not only did she find these flicks bad for one's moral character, but she also thought they were poorly made.
Among the older movies she held up to scorn were "Alfie," "Hud," "Grease" and "A Streetcar Named Desire" ("they put 'desire' right in the title, which tells you everything").
She lamented the fact America spends about $9 billion on films, which, she explained, is a 9 followed by nine zeros. She compared that with how much money we put into church collection boxes.
She contrasted the depraved movies of today with her cinema favorites, which include "Bells of St. Mary's," "Going My Way" and "Boys Town."
She also gave thumbs up to "The Sound of Music," which she called one of the best movies for Catholics to see. Mother Superior told the story of that musical with hilarious pantomime, puppets and commentary: "In the movie, they didn't need a compass to get over the mountains because that is where Maria grew up. But in real life, the Von Trapp family took a train to Italy and ended up in Vermont."
This is a very funny show, but the best of the laughs come when Mother Superior explains her sure-fire formula for deciding whether a dead movie star went to heaven or hell. Frank Sinatra, for instance, had four wives, and on top of that, his last name has "Sin" in it. Can there be any doubt that he goes down?
You don't have to be Catholic to enjoy this show, but if you are, you might find yourself howling just a little more hysterically than your fellow theatergoers.