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Hail Mary!
a Comedy/Drama
by Tom Dudzick

COMPANY : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
ID# 4873

SHOWING : March 25, 2016 - April 17, 2016



This comedy/drama, by the author of "Miracle on South Division Street," introduces Mary, a plucky novice who bravely does battle with her Mother Superior, a staunch defender of "that old time religion." Mary puts her future as a nun in serious jeopardy when she dares teach the children her personal, unorthodox views of God and his commandments. Her dream of Sisterhood is further threatened with the untimely arrival of a childhood sweetheart who suddenly declares his love. Will Mary give it all up for the love of a man? Or will she listen to the priest who mysteriously appears and declares Mary to be the world’s next savior?

Director Dina Shadwell
Father Stan Theo Harness
Joe Jeff K. Lester
Sister Felicia Eliana Marianes
Sister Regina Ann Wilson
Mary Suzanne Zoller
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Hail Mary Pass
by playgoer
Monday, March 28, 2016
Tom Dudzick’s "Miracle on South Division Street" was a big success for Stage Door Players last season. Is it surprising, then, that they would choose the same playwright and same director (Dina Shadwell) to bring his earlier play, "Hail Mary," to their stage? The production is equally as fine as last year’s, but the script isn’t as strong. It’s a bit dated, referencing legal same-sex marriage as something implausible, and has a more piously religious storyline.

Sara Rue look-alike Suzannne Zoller plays the lead role of Mary, a parochial school teacher and would-be nun chafing under the by-the-book leadership of Sister Regina (Ann Wilson). Complicating her life are a priest who believes she has greatness within (Theo Harness), a nun who dabbles in Mary’s inventive teaching practices (Eliana Marianes), and a returning schooldays boyfriend (Jeff K. Lester). The conflicting draws of educating children, of educating mankind, and the lure of romance require her to make difficult choices. The play doesn’t result in a resolution of her conflicts, leaving the possibility open of different choices in the future.

Chuck Welcome’s set is, as always, a delight to view. Its blackboard, student desks, teacher’s desk, and glimpses of the hallway outside scream "school," and the statue of the Virgin Mary, the photographs of (male) church leaders, and the kneeling bench scream "parochial school." Costumes, designed by Jim Alford, have a wider range than might be expected, with two different nun’s habits in use and with Mary’s clothes changing for the final scene. Rial Ellsworth’s sound design has little to do during the play except for a phone ring, and I found the scene-setting music much less appropriate than the pre-show music that leaned heavily on the Polish-American polka repertoire. J.D. Williams’ lighting design is equally straightforward, although I love the inclusion of globe lights above the stage that look exactly like miniature versions of the light fixtures in an older school.

The performances are all delightful, and there are a lot of crisp reactions that are as telling of character as are the lines being spoken. That’s usually a sign of fine direction. The only thing I found odd in the performances was the presumably Irish accent used by Theo Harness as Father Stan. He speaks a phrase or two in Polish and refers to his childhood nickname as "Stash," which would suggest he is of Polish extraction himself (a "Stanisław" rather than a "Stanley," which isn’t a prototypically Irish name anyhow). That’s a fairly minor quibble, though, since the performance works overall, gaining exit applause after a particularly vivid scene.

Ms. Zoller gives an earnest, heartfelt performance, matched in intensity by Ms. Wilson. Ms. Marianes provides much of the comic relief, using a Latina New Yawk accent to fine advantage. Mr. Lester plays perhaps the least fleshed-out character, but makes Joe suitably charming. And Dina Shadwell puts it all together in the eminently workmanlike fashion that has become her habit, to use a nun-inspired pun. And who says a workman can’t be a master craftsman, or its less gender-specific equivalent? [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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