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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, November 17, 2002

Actors' Group amuses in twofer

By Joseph T. Rozmiarek
Advertiser Drama Critic

 •  'Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You'

'The Actor's Nightmare'

4 p.m. today, 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays through Dec. 8

The Actors' Group Yellow Brick Studio

$10; 591-7999

It's a double bill of dark comedy as The Actors' Group stages two one-act plays by Christopher Durang, "The Actor's Nightmare" and "Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You."

David Farmer directs and some good performances help coax out plenty of humor from a couple of bizarre situations.

"The Actor's Nightmare" plays like a young work and exactly fills out the implication of the title. An unassuming accountant finds himself on stage, starring in a play. But he hasn't a clue why he's there or what to say. Suddenly all eyes turn expectantly to him and he must respond.

Walter Eccles takes the right soft approach to the man's dilemma and pairs nicely with Eden-Lee Murray as a sophisticated Noel Coward heroine. As Eccles stumbles and bumbles, Murray grows increasingly brittle. Together they turn the awkward pauses and the physical byplay into very funny stuff.

Later, Eccles does the same turn in "Hamlet" with John White as an unforgiving Horatio, and crawls into a trash can for a Samuel Beckett parody with Victoria Gail-White. Stephanie Kuroda is the stage manager who knows all the lines.

The comedy turns serious when Eccles goes before an executioner as Thomas Moore in "A Man For All Seasons."

The second half of the evening is the popular "Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You." Jo Pruden takes the title role as the imperious nun who demands rigorous behavior from her students, but takes personal liberties with her interpretation of Catholic dogma.

Sister Mary keeps a growing list of contemporary figures she's consigned to suffer in hell for all eternity, but she's quick to reward correctly memorized catechism with cookies and chocolate. Pruden is excellent as this bristly old terror and contrasts nicely with Michael Yasunaga as her current prize pupil from the second grade.

Her diatribe against misbehavior takes an absurd turn when four former pupils, now grown, appear to enact her favorite version of the Christmas story. S. Rick Crump, Monica Kong, Euphrosyne Rushforth and Todd Savoian play Mary, Joseph, and Misty the faithful camel.

But it turns out that the alumni really have shown up to embarrass their former teacher, who failed to prepare them for the realities of adult life. One woman has an illegitimate child and another has undergone two abortions. One of the men is an alcoholic wife-beater, but an otherwise practicing Catholic. One is simply a happy homosexual.

Sister Mary typically takes matters into her own hands to correct such misbehavior, but to tell how she does it would spoil the fun.

And it is a fun evening. Farmer keeps it light by emphasizing the comedy and preventing the darker elements from casting too long a shadow. The result is a pleasant couple of hours that entertain, and provoke only a little.