By Bridgette M. Redman
Mother Superior tells us there are seven deadly sins. If there is an eighth one, it might be lambasting a holy sister.
If so, then a confessional is in my future.
Stormfield’s “Put the Nuns in Charge” was more tedious than funny, more awkward than entertaining. Actress Breeda Kelly Miller referred frequently to her script, meandered through her performance and seemed lost at how to warm up an audience or engage them in what was supposed to be an interactive comedy.
“Put the Nuns in Charge” is part of a series by Vicki Quade which combines improvisation and Catholic humor. She started with the one-woman show “Late Nite Catechism” and since has created a series that has raised more than $2 million for retired nuns.
Stormfield set a promising stage. Michelle Raymond’s set dressing was superlative, creating the perfect Catholic classroom that provided the Mother Superior with all she needed to transport the audience back to school.
Excellent stagecraft and props could not make up for Miller’s poor performance. There was an amateurish feel to it, as if Miller were new to the play even though she has been on tour with it and performed it in Wyandotte before coming to Lansing. She was constantly flipping through her script on her desk and littering her speech with verbal fillers. She would jump ahead of herself and then back up and repeat what she had just said.
Any comedy requires timing, and improvisation more than most. Miller lacked that timing, stumbling at the beginning of the jokes, going quiet in the middle and perking up only when the audience laughed at the punchline.
There were also odd errors as Mother Superior seemed to be mixing up some of her sins or at least not making clear connections of how her examples were illustrating the sin. She even tagged greed as being the green-eyed monster rather than envy, which she had just checked off the list.
Miller ineptly managed the energy levels as well, leaving long pauses as she read the pages in the binder on her desk. She seemed lost when the audience didn’t respond nor was she able to do much to speed things along or pull them in.
It was difficult to tell whether the nun was supposed to be strict or doddering. She was mostly sweet, smiling a lot and tuttering over any misbehaviors. Strictness would have required more confidence than what Miller was showing Thursday night.
The material itself had the potential to be funny, and perhaps Miller simply had a very off night. If the performance on opening night was any indication, however, Miller is simply not ready for this show and Stormfield would be better off with a sharper nun.
‘Put the Nuns in Charge’
Stormfield Theatre, 201 Morgan Lane, Lansing. Thursday-Sunday through Jan. 23. $18-$24. 517-372-0945. http://www.stormfieldtheatre.org.