Theater Review: 'Bad Habits'

By: 
Ben Miles
What makes the divine mysterious? What’s the difference between the sacred and the profane? When we attempt to serve the divine, to whom are we directing our efforts? 
 
These are some of the earthly and otherworldly queries comically probed in Steve Mazur’s wry play, “Bad Habits,” now in its world premiere at the Ruskin Group Theatre, in Santa Monica. 
 
Mike Reilly directs “Bad Habits” with snap timing and credible characterizations; blessed with a top-notch cast – including Orson Bean as The Bishop and Alley Mills as the Mother Superior – this show infuses hilarity into its plot, based on a struggling convent of nuns at St. Cyril’s who serve an improverished neighborhood and run the St. Cyril’s Elementary School.
 
In a desperate effort to receive adequate funding to carry on their mission, Mother Superior appeals to The Bishop for a greater financial allocation from the diocese, which even with attempts to bribe The Bishop with his beloved baked bread made by the holy hands of the convent’s nuns, he refuses due to his own self-aggrandizing agenda. 
 
With a simple sitcom storyline, “Bad Habits” is elevated to theatrical artistry by its formidable cast, which in addition to the comedic abilities of Mr. Bean (who’s given the stage to deliver what amounts to a stand-up act) and Ms. Mills’ convincing dedication to her character’s reliogious vocation, there is Lee Garlington as the dry-witted and cynical Sister Maggie; Mouchette van Helsdingen as the richly accented Sister Helga; Jacquelin Lorraine Schofield playing songbird Sister Anthea; Jacquelynne Fontaine as the whiskey-swilling, cigarette smoking Sister Claire; Kelsey Griswold as the cryptic former student who appears at times to be possessed by an otherworldly spirit (and who displays a lovely singing voice); also, there’s Jennifer Sagiao who acts as the diocese secretary. Kudos to each cast member, who sing, dance and bring us to high hilarity as we watch and enjoy this two-hour spiritual comedy. 
 
The fluid set design is by Brad Bentz; spot-on costuming is designed by Michael Mullen; the lighting and sound design is by Edward Salas.) 
 
“Bad Habits” continues through Jan. 26 at the Ruskin Group Theater Company. The Ruskin Theatre Group is located at 3000 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica.
 
Evening performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Matinees are Sundays at 2 p.m. For reservations call (310) 397- 3244. For online ticketing and further information visit info@ruskingrouptheatre.org
 

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