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Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All for You & The Actor's Nightmare

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"Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All for You" is a black comedy about Catholicism. "An Actor's Nightmare" is also a black comedy; a one-hander. An unprepared actor in an unnamed play is forced to take the place of a leading actor.


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"Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All for You" is a black comedy about Catholicism. "An Actor's Nightmare" is also a black comedy; a one-hander. An unprepared actor in an unnamed play is forced to take the place of a leading actor.

30 review for Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All for You & The Actor's Nightmare

  1. 4 out of 5

    Calista

    OK. Our main character is a villain. I haven't seen that. She isn't an anti-villain; no, she is an outright religious fanatic evil villain. She reminds me a bit of Professor Umbridge, but not as simpering and sweet. This play did have it's funny moments, but having to sit through Sister's lecture was downright terrible. She is horrible. A group of her former students come in to talk to her and we begin to see behind the curtain of this "holy" woman. She enjoyed not letting one student go to the b OK. Our main character is a villain. I haven't seen that. She isn't an anti-villain; no, she is an outright religious fanatic evil villain. She reminds me a bit of Professor Umbridge, but not as simpering and sweet. This play did have it's funny moments, but having to sit through Sister's lecture was downright terrible. She is horrible. A group of her former students come in to talk to her and we begin to see behind the curtain of this "holy" woman. She enjoyed not letting one student go to the bathroom and he would pee his pants. Students hate this woman. The humor comes when all these students, well mostly all of them start to tell them about their lives. Unwed mother, gay man, and a woman with 2 abortions. Sister is shocked. I suppose I won't give the ending. It is shocking. This happens during a lecture. It's such an odd little play and there isn't really much joy in it. I know it's saying something about the Catholic church and I have enough friends and heard the stories to know that there are many scars from schooling with nuns. Plus, the Villain seems to get away with no consequences. It's simply not satisfying to me. I would go see it sometime to see how it's staged. It is a quick play. But, I'm not the biggest fan of this story.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Bionic Jean

    Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All for You is a black comedy about Catholicism. Sister Mary Ignatius is giving a lecture, and the theatre audience are the students. She points to drawings of the Earth, the moon and the sun. Then she points to drawings of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory and also Limbo, explaining that this is where unbaptized babies are sent. She explains to her audience about the “Immaculate Conception” and which sins send you to Hell, “Murder, sex outside marriage, highjacking a p Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All for You is a black comedy about Catholicism. Sister Mary Ignatius is giving a lecture, and the theatre audience are the students. She points to drawings of the Earth, the moon and the sun. Then she points to drawings of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory and also Limbo, explaining that this is where unbaptized babies are sent. She explains to her audience about the “Immaculate Conception” and which sins send you to Hell, “Murder, sex outside marriage, highjacking a plane, masturbation”. In all this she is assisted by Thomas, aged seven, who is rewarded with sweets on any correct answers to questions on the catechism. As the action continues, Sister Mary appears to take questions from the audience and expands her lecture to include details of her family background, which seems to have been very disturbed. Four ex-students of hers interrupt Sister Mary in her 25th anniversary celebrations. They say they are there to put on a Christmas pageant. As we watch the pageant, it becomes clear that it has been written by an innocent child, and so sounds embarrassingly gauche when adults present it. After the pageant, Sister Mary becomes increasingly angry, as she realises that all of these students have left the church’s teachings. (view spoiler)[One is an unmarried mother, one is a suicidal alcoholic who beats his wife, one is gay, and one has had two abortions. The play becomes darker and darker as the true motive of one of the ex-students becomes clear; she wants to kill Sister Mary. Sister Mary then grabs a gun from behind her lectern and shoots her attacker in self-defence, following it up by shooting one of the others, proclaiming that she has sent him to heaven, as he went to confession earlier that day. She threatens the others, but decides to hand the gun to little Thomas while she takes a nap. The play ends with a tableau of Thomas pointing the gun at Aloysius, two dead bodies on the floor, and Sister Mary asleep, as (hide spoiler)] Thomas explains the perfections of God. The play is extremely fast-paced and extremely bitter. It is also, however, extremely funny. It is very much of its time, first being performed in 1979, and proving to be very successful in the 1980s, when it won an Obie (off-Broadway) award. Although it has been seen as an attack on Catholicism, it is more of an attack on the dogma sometimes associated with the Catholic church. One critic called it, “a hysterically funny, bitter, anguished, out-of-control moral comedy that stands as a rebuke to all “bad taste humour” which refuses to acknowledge the implications of its attacks.” Christopher Durang himself said, “I resent and disagree with the notion that the play is anti-Catholic. ‘Anti’ means ‘against’ and I am not against Catholics - I was raised Catholic, and although I am presently lapsed ... I am writing in criticism of a certain kind of authoritarian Catholicism that I grew up under. I was taught for twelve years by nuns and priests, and looking back over fifteen years later I find a lot of the dogma then taught me now sounds more like the Red Queen talking to Alice than God talking to man.” An Actor’s Nightmare is also a black comedy; a soliloquy or one-hander. When the lead actor in an unnamed play cannot appear, another man finds that he is forced to take the actor’s place, even though he is actually an accountant. The unprepared actor, Walter Plinge (or “George Spelvin” in the US), seems to be living a nightmare. Panicking, he recites lines from Noel Coward’s “Private Lives”, “Hamlet”, and even Samuel Beckett in a desperation attempt to avoid “drying up”. The action escalates as he becomes increasingly emotional, reciting everything he can remember: the Pledge of Allegiance, the Catholic Act of Contrition, The Lord’s Prayer, and eventually the alphabet. Both these plays are usually performed together, and the author stipulated that when performed outside the US, an American accent should not be attempted. They follow the same emotional arc, both being part nightmare, part tragedy, part irony and part bitter, absurd, black humour. Very enjoyable, but not for the faint-hearted or easily offended. The author said, “If God exists, He must surely have a sense of humour don’t you think? And then if He doesn’t exist, we all might as well try to have one.” Note - When I saw the plays in London’s West End, Maria Aitken played the part of Sister Mary, and Christopher Timothy played the part of Walter Plinge.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jaksen

    An entertaining take down of the Catholic church, and no, I'm not anti-Catholic; some of my best friends... Hehe, like my husband! At any rate, the good sister takes apart what makes her religion so special, with the help of a young boy who she feeds cookies to. She comes up against four of her former students, each with questions of their own which the good sister either can't answer, or gives humorous and trite answers to. This is NOT the play for the seriously devout and I can see my sister-in An entertaining take down of the Catholic church, and no, I'm not anti-Catholic; some of my best friends... Hehe, like my husband! At any rate, the good sister takes apart what makes her religion so special, with the help of a young boy who she feeds cookies to. She comes up against four of her former students, each with questions of their own which the good sister either can't answer, or gives humorous and trite answers to. This is NOT the play for the seriously devout and I can see my sister-in-law walking out on it. But entertaining? Entirely so Four stars.

  4. 5 out of 5

    ✰ Liz ✰

    We have all heard the horror stories about nuns and the shenanigans that take place in the classroom. This play gives you the "inside look". It is a look that I will not easily forget! Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All for You is definitely what I would call a black comedy. The playwright Christopher Durang, raised a Roman Catholic, pokes fun at the Catholic belief system via Sister Mary Ignatius. While holding a seminar, Sister Mary shares the basics beliefs of the Catholic religion. Her fa We have all heard the horror stories about nuns and the shenanigans that take place in the classroom. This play gives you the "inside look". It is a look that I will not easily forget! Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All for You is definitely what I would call a black comedy. The playwright Christopher Durang, raised a Roman Catholic, pokes fun at the Catholic belief system via Sister Mary Ignatius. While holding a seminar, Sister Mary shares the basics beliefs of the Catholic religion. Her favorite student Thomas assists her. He is the model catholic student as he robotically responds to all of her questions. Half way through her speech some of her former students show up. They enter dressed in full costume and perform a pageant for her and the audience. The four students remind her that she had asked them to return and visit her. It becomes abundantly clear that the four have strayed. Diane has had two abortions (one from a rape), Philomena is an unwed mother, Aloysisus is an alcoholic who beats his wife and is thinking about suicide, and Gary is a homosexual. As the play progresses they admit that they were not asked to come but instead just wanted to embarrass her. At this point in the play, you don't know if you should be laughing at the dynamics between the students and the sister or cry out over the sickness that the sister is spewing all over. This play evokes a vast array of emotions. For the religious reader it will make you uncomfortable. It evokes questions about sin. Are all sins equal in the eyes of God? If we die before we have the chance to confess our sins, will we still go to heaven? Is there truly only black and white and no grey? Overall, I enjoyed this play. Anything that can get that can evoke a smile, laugh, and horror in one paragraph warrants a high rating from me! I am looking forward to viewing this on the stage!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Glen Engel-Cox

    I had seen Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You years ago when I was living in Austin, remembered it fondly, so I picked it up back in December while I was working on my own one-act play (which I have now finished and feel quite pleased with). Durang spears the Catholic faith without mercy, and this would be hard to watch if it also wasn't so funny. And while Catholics may have the most problem with some of this, other literal beliefs might be surprised to find themselves reflected in Si I had seen Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You years ago when I was living in Austin, remembered it fondly, so I picked it up back in December while I was working on my own one-act play (which I have now finished and feel quite pleased with). Durang spears the Catholic faith without mercy, and this would be hard to watch if it also wasn't so funny. And while Catholics may have the most problem with some of this, other literal beliefs might be surprised to find themselves reflected in Sister Mary and her unwavering trust in herself. Since my play was a satire as well, I tried to take as much constructive evidence from this that I could use. The other play in this volume is okay. Clever enough, I think it would be more effective on stage. It could be that I could visualize Sister Mary having seen a production of it, while I came at An Actor's Nightmare cold.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lizzie

    (Just Sister Mary Ignatius). Really clever satire. I enjoyed it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ensiform

    "Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You": I'm hesitant to call it only my second reading, since I was in it at 12 and probably read it dozens of times, but for simplicity's sake I will. Coming back to it after a decade, I see that this is a very brave play, poking fun at the long-standing traditions of some fairly humorless people. It flings homosexuality, abortion and single mothers into the fray, almost as a sidebar to the main controversy, rape and cancer in a world which a good God is "Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You": I'm hesitant to call it only my second reading, since I was in it at 12 and probably read it dozens of times, but for simplicity's sake I will. Coming back to it after a decade, I see that this is a very brave play, poking fun at the long-standing traditions of some fairly humorless people. It flings homosexuality, abortion and single mothers into the fray, almost as a sidebar to the main controversy, rape and cancer in a world which a good God is supposed to rule. Of course, it is a comedy, and it's very funny too, although much less so after the appearance of Diane and the others. Sister Mary shooting Diane is absurd, but not that comic (the shooting of Gary, on the other hand – "I've sent him to Heaven!" – manages to be funny). This is one of the best black comedies ever, guaranteed to offend: the best kind. "The Actor's Nightmare": I found a lot more meaning to this play this time than my first reading (and viewing) at age 12. I had thought of it as just a surreal, extremely funny play, which it is, but there's also the fact that George has deep guilt about not going to a monastery, which figures into his torment. In addition to being a send-up of the trappings of the theater and actors' airs, it's a comment on the Catholic Church's use of guilt as a power tool. Mainly, though, it was a great comedy. I laughed out loud reading it. [Read twice – actually, heard and performed in dozens of times]

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Two tremendous plays I hadn't thought about in over 20 years. Like others here, I played Thomas in Sister Mary... as a young man and much of the humor was lost on me at the time. I recalled some details of both plays, but I'd forgotten how fantastic The Actor's Nightmare is. I do recall the audiences enjoying both plays very much, but especially Nightmare.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    I thought this was a wonderful satire about religion that purports to have the answers while not answering a lot of important questions. While well written (I have not seen the play acted out), it is going to reinforce a person's negative and/or skeptical perception of the Catholic Church or offend its members and those with more sensitive religious sensibilities.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sea Urchin

    Loved, loved, loved it!! Great humor and crazy character! Sister Mary Ignatius is so nuts and this is whats intriguing about her...

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ellie Erickson

    Was in this show in college :)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Bizzell

    The Actor's Nightmare was hilarious (mostly because of how true it was), but I just couldn't get into Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Helena

    4.5

  14. 5 out of 5

    Teri Temme

    The Sister is hilarious and scary all at the same time.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    The 'pageant' in Sister Mary Ignatius is a bit overwrought, but otherwise a good bit of fun. I preferred the Actor's Nightmare though which is at times hilarious.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    meh.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Julian Munds

    Often theatre of the absurd is called cynical. That is because of plays like this. This is not a theatre of the absurd although Durang often gets lumped in that. Mary Ignatius is a play that relies on realism in active performance. Where the play ends up could be both frightening as it is played in the movie version but also hilarious. I am confused as to which way to take it. I think the play is messy and doesn't go anywhere after a certain point. Not wanting to end up in a strong conclusion so Often theatre of the absurd is called cynical. That is because of plays like this. This is not a theatre of the absurd although Durang often gets lumped in that. Mary Ignatius is a play that relies on realism in active performance. Where the play ends up could be both frightening as it is played in the movie version but also hilarious. I am confused as to which way to take it. I think the play is messy and doesn't go anywhere after a certain point. Not wanting to end up in a strong conclusion so as not to offend. I can see why it's so popular in University settings because although dramaturgically it plays with liveness it also doesn't go so far as to offend or end up in a novel position. One of the better Durang pieces but ultimately as confused and lame as his others.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    SISTER: Very dark screed described as "comedy" but truly disturbing and hateful. NIGHTMARE: Absurdist one-act, but runs on like an actor's "in" joke, without saying anything interesting. Not interested in either one.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Himali Kothari

    A dark comedy which takes a morbid turn.

  20. 4 out of 5

    dany

    thenks for giving me monologues to perform. not you, 'the actor's nightmare', you were boring

  21. 4 out of 5

    Helen

    Sister Mary Ignatius... and The Actor's Nightmare are two short plays by Christopher Durang, originally performed in the early Eighties. Both are bitingly funny satires on the psychology of belief and belonging. In The Actor's Nightmare an accountant named George wakes up on a stage and is thrust in three different roles, taking over for an actor named Eddie who has been injured in a car accident. The comedy of errors that draws him through Coward, Shakespeare, and Beckett is a smooth transition Sister Mary Ignatius... and The Actor's Nightmare are two short plays by Christopher Durang, originally performed in the early Eighties. Both are bitingly funny satires on the psychology of belief and belonging. In The Actor's Nightmare an accountant named George wakes up on a stage and is thrust in three different roles, taking over for an actor named Eddie who has been injured in a car accident. The comedy of errors that draws him through Coward, Shakespeare, and Beckett is a smooth transition from light to dark. The reader or audience member is skillfully led along with poor George in this absurdist set of circumstances in such a subtle way that the ending, while not a surprise per se, stil keeps one guessing. Sister Mary Ignatius follows a similar path, but is a bit more problematic. Some of the lines and opinions feel more dated than absurdist, and it's difficult to get a read on who Sister Mary really is, and how she really feels about her students. This was apparently enough of a problem from the very beginning that Durang felt it necessary to add an Addendum emphasizing that Sister Mary not be played as an overly mean, scary, stereotypical nun, that she be neither too young or too old. Still, it's a good example of how the Catholic Church, and society at large, is a much different place in 2014 than it was in 1981. I think I'd be less likely to go and see Sister Mary performed than I would Actor's Nightmare, but both were amusing reads.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Molly

    Of course, I love "The Actor's Nightmare" but "Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You" is side splittingly funny. I guess it's because I am Catholic and because I love black humor. Christopher Durang is edgy and witty so if you're expecting Neil Simon, you probably want to read something else.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Taylor Miller

    I enjoyed this book because while on the surface it shows what happens when you don't rehearse when going deeper it shows how close nightmares and reality truly are.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Michelle D.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Paul

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rica Mendes

  27. 5 out of 5

    M. Madsen

  28. 4 out of 5

    Peggy Shaughnessy

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kerolos Rizk

  30. 5 out of 5

    Abby

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