God bless the Hollywood nun, that celluloid creature with a heavenly glow and flawless makeup embodied by the likes of Loretta Young. And God bless Charles Busch for giving us “The Divine Sister,” his campy tribute to Technicolor tales of righteous mothers superior and nubile novices, at the Soho Playhouse. Which is not to say Busch always hits the mark. Too often he settles for the easy joke by resorting to familiar forays into flatulence, profanity and penis size. But mostly he stays on-message, gleefully celebrating the good sisters as they slog their way through a ridiculously convoluted plot to an unlikely happy ending.
Busch himself plays Mother Superior, who, with the help of Sister Acacius (the irrepressible Julie Halston), tries to raise funds to save St. Veronica’s, the crumbling school and convent over which she presides. Sister Walburga (Alison Fraser), visiting from the mother house in Germany with an accent as thick as bratwurst, turns out to be an operative out of “The DaVinci Code.” In her quest for cash, Mother Superior not only stumbles upon her long-lost mother (gaining a windfall for St. Veronica’s in the process), but also connects with her lover from her pre-sisterhood days, foils Walburga’s cryptic plot and discovers why she’s so drawn to a postulant named Agnes (Amy Rutberg).
Over the top? Exhaustingly so. But Busch’s instinct for fun and sustained silliness render his excesses eminently forgivable.
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