Absurdity unchained

A Christopher Durang Festival

That ain’t no way to treat a lady. Oh, it’s your mother? Well, OK then.

That ain’t no way to treat a lady. Oh, it’s your mother? Well, OK then.

Photo By PHOTO by penny kline

A Christopher Durang Festival: Evening One, “Mary”; 8 p.m. Thursday and Saturday; Evening Two, “Baby”; 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday; $13-$15. Ovation Stage at the Three Penny Theatre in the California Stage complex, 2509 R Street; (916) 448-0312; www.ovationstage.com. Through September 9.

Three Penny Theatre

1723 25th St.
Sacramento, CA 95816

(916) 451-5822

Rated 4.0

Here’s a very irreverent way to welcome a new theater company to town: Pick either—or both—of the programs that Ovation Stage is producing in repertory as A Christopher Durang Festival, and laugh loudly at absurd, outrageous and slightly blasphemous comedy.

And those six plays would be an ambitious undertaking for Ovation’s founding artistic director, Penny Kline, even if she hadn’t included four different directors and 31 local actors in the shows. Fortunately, opening weekend included an ice-cream social to benefit the Sacramento Area Regional Theatre Alliance, which did quite a bit to offset the heat.

The first program, titled “Mary,” is made up of Durang’s Naomi in the Living Room, The Actor’s Nightmare and Nina in the Morning. Just when you think it can’t get any funnier—or weirder—along comes Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All for You, featuring the incredible Georgeann Wallace in the title role. While some more conservative Catholics have been offended by the portrayal, Durang is using actual church doctrine—nothing that Sister Mary Ignatius has to say would be technically offensive to, say, Pope Benedict XVI.

And, of course, it’s obnoxiously funny as, well, as hell.

The second program, titled “Baby,” starts with Erin Renfree in a short, one-woman piece about theater, Mrs. Sorken. She’s quite droll, and is a wonderful setup for the main piece, Baby With the Bathwater, which makes a great case for requiring licensing of parents as Helen (Emily Kentta) and John (Brennan Villalobos) attempt to “raise” their baby. They have help—if you can call it that—from a psycho nanny, a strange neighbor, some ladies in the park, school officials and, finally, a shrink.

As their offspring, Daisy, Brent Dirksen is proof that we are not computers; trash in does not necessarily equate to trash out.

A Christopher Durang Festival is a busy and wide-ranging opener for a new company, with an indication that we can expect shows based on ideas and timely topics. Try one night, or both, and strap yourself in: It’s going to be a dark and bumpy ride.