FORT WORTH -- This is a holy roller of a different order.
In Late Nite Catechism -- Las Vegas: Sister Rolls the Dice!, the one-nun show that opened a six-performance run at McDavid Studio on Wednesday, the sister in charge does not suffer fools gladly.
And she doesn't suffer Lutherans at all.
Just ask poor Stephen, an unfortunate non-Catholic who paid a dear price for not being affiliated with the correct church. Sister, played by Nonie Newton-Breen, was on his sorry, Protestant case throughout the performance. But he should not have fallen in with the gum-chewers and talkers on his side of the room. Sister does not brook such behavior.
And don't even get her started on cell phones. Sister knows that the Satan of today speaks in ringtones, and she treats those devices like the bobbles of Beelzebub they are. The show was not 20 minutes old before she condemned one half of the audience to hell for failing to rat out the owner of a ringing phone in their midst.
Holding forth in all her black and white glory, Sister was a wimpled wizard of wisecracks as she tried to keep her adult catechism class in order and take care of some other business: the planning of a fund-raising, Vegas night at her church.
To set the atmosphere, Sister, who is a member of the Sorrowful Sisters of the Weeping Nuns, did some card and magic tricks, and even dressed up a member of the audience like a showgirl. She also gave away some valuable prizes, such as a glow-in-the-dark statue of the Virgin Mary.
This show, which is a sequel to the cornerstone of the franchise, Late Nite Catechism, makes heavy use of improvised comedy and audience participation to achieve its ends. Sister's barbs, delivered in a flat, distinctly Midwestern accent, are sharply shot but never stinging.
Newton-Breen, who has been doing this show for 12 years, came out of Chicago's Second City troupe, and that baptism-by-fire shines through in her performance. She is extremely quick on her feet in her interactions with the patrons and never misses when delivering one of her scripted one-liners, such as when she reminds the audience that "God invented bingo."
The show bogged down a little when some of the audience participation bits went on longer than needed, and during a fairly serious Q&A session in the second act.
The Catholics in the attendance seemed to enjoy the festivities even more than those of us who have no idea what a catechism class is. But most of the near-capacity crowd of about 200 at Wednesday's performance was totally engaged in the concept, and seemed to love having Sister play them like a fiddle.
So it would be a sin to throw too many stones at this Sister act.