A farce is defined as a comedy that aims at entertaining the audience through setting up situations that are exaggerated and having highly improbable scenarios . It’s complete buffoonery, horseplay, and physical comedy. This is the comedy that Drinking Habits by Tom Smith is brimming with. Stage West has put on the solid production, with an outstanding comedic cast to really bring the laughs.
The play tells of two nuns, Sister Augusta (Natascha Girgis) and Sister Philamena (Esther Purves-Smith) of the Sisters of Perpetual Sewing, who have secretly been making and selling wine to keep their convent open. They have hid this fact from their Mother Superior (Elinor Holt) and unbeknownst to them, their wine has won a prestigious award. This fact has two reporters, and former fiances, Sally (Charlie Gould) and Paul (Jeremy LaPalme) marching into the convent to dig up the dirt. Add to the mix the new nun, Sister Mary-Catherine (Arielle Rombough), Father Chenille (Robert Klein), the groundskeeper, George (Al Braatz), and top it off with the threat that Rome wants to close the convent, and you’ve got yourself the chemistry of a very funny play.
Girgis admirably shows her comedic skills as Sister Augusta, with her mastery of timing and her interactions with Sister Philamena. Her comedy is exaggerated, but you can’t help but laugh every time she utters the word “confess.” Purves-Smith shines as Sister Augusta’s sidekick, being meek and quite unable to lie, which gets her into all kinds of trouble. Holt’s voice echos on the stage as Mother Superior. Her seriousness in her role allows for a great contrast, which enhances the comedy.
Drinking Habits requires the audience to do a big buy-in with the charming, yet sometimes over-the-top plot. Director J. Sean Elliott and the cast work hard to have this happen, so certain events, like that the fact that George gets black-out drunk after 5 glasses of wine or that no one wonders about the fact Sister “Paula” and Father “Paul” look exactly the same; where on-stage, all explanations are accepted without question.
Anton de Groot’s set design features a simple yet cozy convent, with many exits and places to hide so that the cast can slam the doors and vanish when urgently necessary, while Michael Gesy’s sound design stylistically emphasizes the chaos when the convent is recognizing its ‘time of silence.’
The play is a good time. It’s fun, charming chaos, with lots of laughs. Sometimes it oversteps the line of comedy a bit, pushing the narrative into the unbelievable, but that’s all part of its magic.
Stage West’s presentation of Drinking Habits runs until April 16th. More information is available online.
Photo: From left to right – Esther Purves-Smith, Natascha Girgis, Charlie Gould and Jeremy LaPalme