Breaking the faith

The Book of Liz

If this was a real painting, it might be called “A Squeamish’s Mother.”

If this was a real painting, it might be called “A Squeamish’s Mother.”

Photo courtesy of Stacy J. Garrett

The Book of Liz, 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday; $15-$20. Three Penny Theatre in the California Stage Complex, 1723 25th Street; (916) 223-9568; www.resurrection Through April 26.
Rated 4.0

Resurrection Theatre's production of The Book of Liz is a hoot and a half, as the Squeamish might say. The Book of Liz gives us a peak at the Squeamish, an isolated religious community similar to the Amish that dresses like Pilgrims, does not engage in modern life, and comes up with its own versions of Bible teachings. It's a simple, earnest group guided by Reverend Tollhouse, who makes up rules as he goes along—much to the chagrin of the gentle but stubbornly vexed Sister Donderstock.

The Squeamish community is the very humorous creation of playwrights and siblings David Sedaris (author and humorist) and Amy Sedaris (she of various comedic talents) who gently skewer inflexible religions, dutiful believers, gender roles, 12-step rules, uninformed opinions and some of the quirkiness of modern society.

The play begins inside the secluded Squeamish compound, where Sister Donderstock (Georgann Wallace) is busy making her famous hand-rolled and world-renowned Squeamish cheese balls, which is the community's moneymaker. She starts to question some of the rules put forth by Reverend Tollhouse (Earl Victorine) and endorsed by Sister Butterworth (Katie Hulse), especially when he introduces a new member, Brother Brightbee (Steve Buri).

When it's announced that Brother Brightbee will take over the cheese-ball making, Sister Donderstock flees the reclusive community and begins a personal quest into the outside world that includes a stint as a costumed mascot, a waitress at the Plymouth Crock Family Restaurant, a roommate to Ukrainian immigrants and a patient with a strange medical disorder.

The humor is gently biting, a bit pointed and at times poignant—best while in the Squeamish environs, but still funny in fish-out-of-water moments when Sister Donderstock delves into secular society.

Though all four leads give winning performances, Wallace and Hulse particularly shine, not only with their line deliveries, but also in their facial expressions and nonverbal reactions: sly smirks, smug smiles and resigned sighs. Nod to director Nina Collins, who deftly keeps this comedy on the right keel, as well as partnering with Margaret Morneau in a very clever flipping wall panel set design.