WHERE TO SEE THE SHOW
■ There are no future "Late Night Catechism" performances on the calendar for Southwest Florida.
■ The Golden Apple in Sarasota will host four shows of "Sister's Easter Catechism: Will My Bunny Go to Heaven" from Feb. 26-28. (thegoldenapple.com)
■ Sunrise Theatre in Fort Pierce will host five performances of "Late Nite Catechism Las Vegas: Sister Rolls the Dice" from March 1-3. (sunrisetheatre.com)
FORT MYERS — At 2:59 p.m. and some seconds on February 10, the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, a nun in a habit with a purpose moved briskly down the aisle at Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall.
At the stroke of 3 p.m., Kimberly Richards opened the one-woman Catholic comedy juggernaut "Late Nite Catechism."
Seconds later, the crowd was in stitches as numerous latecomers dared defy Sister and sneak in under the bell.
"You! Sir. Why are you late? You left late? Well, cause and effect right? $1 each. Yes. Now!"
Flummoxed snowbirds with snowy heads and tropical prints dig in sensible purses for their penance. This is Catholicism after all. Three "Our Fathers," and two "Hail Marys." Snap. Forgiven.
"Late Nite Catechism" is the first in a series of now six nun-in-a-room comedies created by Vicki Quade and Maripat Donovan. The show is participatory theatre where a strict Catholic nun teaches a catechism class with the audience as her students.
"Come down here," Sister booms as more latecomers enter. "What are you wearing? Do you take communion in that top?"
The audience howls anew.
"Catechism" sharply blends a few bits of Catholic education into the entertainment. Who ever heard of Saint Gemma or Saint Simeon Stylites. Brush up on the Immaculate Conception. (Hint: It has nothing to do with the Madonna that married Guy Ritchie.) And learn the surprising answer to: "Who did Cain and Abel marry?"
Richards, surprisingly tiny in person, has performed "Catechism" and its sisters more than 2,000 times. Even in the cavernous Mann Hall, she creates an electric atmosphere. The show lacks the raucous spontaneity afforded by intimate venues where Sister can roam the audience, but Richards offers a solid set.
In every live comedy show, there seems to be a few poor souls who forget the first and only rule: The lady with the microphone makes the rules.
First it was the gentleman in the conductor's circle, who held his sweetheart's hand throughout the show. "GET YOUR HANDS OFF HER!" Sister screamed repeatedly, even brandishing her trusty wooden ruler, named "Mr. Whack." Or the guy who kept yelling back at Sister. She pointed at him. She pointed at the chair in the corner. "Yes, Sister."
Two hours passes in a flash. Folks brave enough to volunteer for quizzes (St. Patrick, St. Mary Magdalene) can win trinkets like prayer cards, tiny statues, scapulars or even a glow-in-the-dark rosary.
Each performance of "Catechism" is different, mostly because the crowd is different at each show. This was also my first time seeing the show in a concert hall space. Others, in more intimate venues, have been slightly more rowdy simply because the actress playing the nun is much closer to her crowd. The show has a script, but performers can work in dozens of items like gum-chewing, hand-holding, whispering, passing notes, etc. into the show depending on what they see audience members doing.
■ There are no future "Late Night Catechism" performances on the calendar for Southwest Florida. The Golden Apple in Sarasota will host four shows of "Sister's Easter Catechism: Will My Bunny Go to Heaven" from Feb. 26-28 (thegoldenapple.com).
■ Sunrise Theatre in Fort Pierce (sunrisetheatre.com) will host five performances of "Late Nite Catechism Las Vegas: Sister Rolls the Dice" from March 1-3. Denise Fennell performed the world debut of "Vegas Catechism" at the Naples Philharmonic in January 2012.