Stage: Penguins, Episode 1

Scot Augustson’s campy nun-noir rounds out Annex’s comic triple bill.

The best and most polished of the current comedy triple-header at Annex (see our stage calendar for details) comes last in the evening's schedule. Penguins is a mordant, campy, hard-boiled Kalashnikov splatfest about the fallout when brawny, brogue-brandishing badass Sister Bernadette (Lisa Viertel) demands some basic rights for nuns, which pushes Father Jones' (Chris Dietz) Beelzebub button and triggers a priest/nun gang war that makes last year's pitiless Cannes winner Gomorrah look like an afterschool special.F-bombs fall like guano under a fruiting mulberry tree as intradenominational apocalypse approaches. On Annex's bare-bones set, Scot Augustson's script giveth and taketh away some of the funniest snooded and frocked characters in my grantedly limited experience. We're talking Doubt on Ecstasy, smack, and aerosol cheese. Under Bret Fetzer's direction, the committed cast endows the little lambs of the cloth with enough personality, passion, and pathos that we actually sort of care about the prospect of their being mown down in veils of blood. This is particularly true of some of the "lesser nuns," whose days are filled with games of charmingly prurient Biblical charades and whose nights smolder with pillow-fighting, pot, and horny speculation about dating Judas Iscariot.The occasional habit-flapping musical number reminds you you're in Campville, a place so enjoyable I found myself regretting the few moments when the action wandered out of the convent and diocese and onto the civilian streets. The hour-long show felt like half that, and I wished Penguins: Episode 2 had begun immediately after.

 
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