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MUSICAL

Review: Dancing nuns with no script

Behind monastery walls lies a world of intrigue - all that oestrogen, all those rules, all that maternal love. And for writers of film and theatre, all that meaty symbolism.
In The Sound of Music, the main character was a nun probably as a means of affirming her absolute righteousness, a balance to all that Nazi-evil. In The Blues Brothers, nuns were prudish diversions on a spree of dissolution; how much fun is tomfoolery without someone wagging a disapproving finger? And in the early 90's film Bad Lieutenant, a raped nun forgives the perpetrator in a move contrasting the reckless moral judgements of the film's title character.


Besides the amusement of watching nuns dance, Nunsense falls flat.
photo: Bohumil Šálek

Mníšky (Nunsense)

Where: Istropolis
When: May 22, 23, 30, 31 June 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17
Tickets available at: Istropolis box office for 260 to 350 crowns
In English: No
Rating: 3 out of 10

Behind monastery walls lies a world of intrigue - all that oestrogen, all those rules, all that maternal love. And for writers of film and theatre, all that meaty symbolism.

In The Sound of Music, the main character was a nun probably as a means of affirming her absolute righteousness, a balance to all that Nazi-evil. In The Blues Brothers, nuns were prudish diversions on a spree of dissolution; how much fun is tomfoolery without someone wagging a disapproving finger? And in the early 90's film Bad Lieutenant, a raped nun forgives the perpetrator in a move contrasting the reckless moral judgements of the film's title character.

American actor and writer of musicals Dan Goggin has taken a more comprehensive approach to nuns than any of the aforementioned examples, yet the result is far more frivolous. Although only about nuns, Nunsense (Mnišky), a musical comedy currently finishing up it's year long stint in Bratislava, manages to say next to nothing about them. It's as if Goggin took all things adorably girlish, boiled them down to clichés, dressed them in a habit, and yelled 'dance'.

Organised like a variety show, Nunsense is based on the premise that 52 nuns have been poisoned by mushroom soup, leaving the convent to struggle with the burial costs. Earnings from previous efforts to raise the money were squandered on mobile phones (a good Globtel joke is snuck in here) and Tomagotchy in a lapse of judgement by the head mother. Now the surviving sisters turn to singing and dancing to cover the costs.

In the opening scenes we meet the five stock characters, from which time nothing much else happens. There's the disapproving head mother, the spunky Sister Roberta, the hopelessly naive and full of wacky questions Sister Amnesia, and sisters Marie Huberta and Lea, who were given no personalities by the writer. They sing, they dance, they giggle.

The music is a standard potpourri of Broadway styles. The pit band and performers play cabaret nicely and have no problems with sudden tempo changes and transitions to and from dialogue. Along with the set design and choreography, the performance is all very acceptable, but fails to fill the gaping hole left by the missing plot.

As for the acting, a talented cast does its best to give a rambunctious performance. It should also be noted that a recent sell-out crowd of mostly older Slovak women seemed to like it very much, which may mean that Nunsense works better if one is fluent in Slovak and/or old and Catholic.

Being none of the above, I was reminded during the performance of American talk show host Conan Obrien, who had an argument with a staffer that wanted him dress him up in a diaper for a comedy sketch. "Where's the entertainment?" "You're in a diaper," the guy answered. "So what," Conan responded. The point being that when you take nothing and dress it up, you still have nothing.

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