If you like seeing a novice nun sashay like a Benny Hill chorus girl and a dim-witted prisoner mistake the Latin chant “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” for Harry Belafonte’s Day-O Banana Boat song, then the season-closing CAT comedy is up your alley.
The Nun’s Trail, which opened Friday at the Black Knight Inn dinner theatre, is a guilty pleasure that’s delivered just right.
This means the enthusiastic cast of Central Alberta Theatre actors aren’t shy about exaggerating their double-takes and delivering punch lines that hit you over the head like a giant salami.
For instance: “I need a light,” says a prisoner looking into a dark escape tunnel.
His sidekick hands him the light bulb he just unscrewed from the ceiling.
Those who have a weakness for such broad comedy will giggle like abashed viewers at an Austin Powers movie, throwing out any pretext of having a higher brow sensibility.
The farce, written by Britton David Barrett and wisely Canadian-ized by director Patti Sarrasin, is about two convicts who vamoose down a previously dug tunnel in their jail cell, ending up in the convent next door. Once there, they don nuns’ habits and try to blend in.
As lucky would have it, the convent is expecting two visiting nuns from Montreal, which proves to be the perfect cover.
But there are hitches.
Harry, the marginally smarter prisoner who renames himself Sister Harriet, must remind Fingers, or rather Sister Phalanges, to stop asking for a beer while breaking bread with the nuns.
“And when you belch, put a hand over your mouth,” Harry helpfully advises.
After comparing himself with Sister Michael, Fingers figures he will pass muster as a Bride of God, since the real nun has similarly hairy legs and a deep voice.
On the other hand, could Sister Michael be the jewel thief who previously escaped from their jail cell with the Star of Nepal diamond?
Or maybe it’s the nun called Sister Cosanostri who is suspiciously wearing bright blue eye shadow and crimson lipstick?
Throw in a vivacious Sister Chastity, with bottle-blonde hair and a hip-breaking swagger, and a lecherous convent cook, who comes across as Pepé Le Pew personified, and you have what it takes for all hell to break loose — which of course it does, to silly comic effect.
The opening night performance of The Nun’s Trail could have used some tightening, in terms of lines being delivered quicker.
But all the actors had the right over-the-top spirit, and so managed to pull off what could otherwise have been a groaner of a comedy.
There weren’t any weak links in the cast.
But particularly fine performances were delivered by Jay Chahley (Fingers) who does a mean Celine Dion-inspired French-Canadian accent, Gord Phillips (Harry) who plays a good straight man, Ileana Tschabold as the ironically named Sister Chastity, and Richard Jackson, as the perverted cook Angus.
Special mention must also go to lighting designer Terry Truckle for creating a cool escape tunnel effect, and to Sarrasin for managing to solve some exceptional set change problems on the narrow Black Knight stage.
Congrats also to the quick-thinking guy in the audience who ran up on stage to help unstick the lid of a trunk, thereby allowing Harry to come up out of the “escape tunnel” (an opening night hiccup that will no doubt be remedied.)
The Nun’s Trail is the last CAT dinner theatre production that’s running at the hotel, with the upcoming fall season set for the new and spacious City Centre Stage in downtown Red Deer.
It’s good to end an era on such a high.