"Meshuggah-Nuns" is a play in the "Nunsense" series written by Dan Goggins.
This time around, the nuns are on an all-expense paid trip aboard the USS Golden Delicious for a "Faith of all Nations" world cruise, and they immediately find themselves in a sticky situation.
As part of the cruise's entertainment roster, there is to be a production of the classic play "Fiddler on the Roof." Unfortunately, most of the cast of "Fiddler on the Roof" falls ill after a storm strikes the ship. Everyone is seasick except for the play's lead character, Tevye. To salvage the show, the ship's captain asks the nuns to fill in and put on an original revue.
Having little knowledge of Jewish customs, the nuns turn to the lead character, Tevye, being played a Jewish actor named Howard Liszt (Angelo Cerrone) who tries to educate the sisters in the Jewish traditions, resulting in a comical outcome of classic misunderstandings by the little Sisters of Hoboken. There is a mix of Catholic and Jewish humor.
"I'm a Catholic playing a Jew who's learning to be a Catholic," said Cerrone about his character.
Those lovable nuns
The play brings back audience favorites like Reverend Mother (Joseph D. Conklin), Sister Robert Anne (John Fiorenza, also the play's director), Sister Hubert (Len Free) and Sister Amneisa (Mark Peterson).
"This is my sixth time directing," said Fiorenza. "And in the play, the captain asks the nuns to put on a show with Howard, and they try to embrace some of the Jewish traditions as they get involved in slapstick situations."
Fiorenza plays Sister Robert Ann, "the Brooklyn nun who is always causing trouble," and brings back a familiar little friend from another production the "Nunsense" series, "Nuncrackers" - Sister Marionette the puppet.
"I'm in this show too with these four chicks," said Fiorenza in the voice of Sr. Marionette. "I appear about 500 times with someone else's hand up my back."
Peterson is also back playing the beloved Sister Amnesia, who lapses in and out of memory due to a crucifix that had fallen on her head several years earlier.
"I come in and out of consciousness [throughout the play], and I'm a little ditzy [in real life], so I was perfectly cast," joked Peterson. "My character gets confused by a lot of the Jewish traditions and customs. For example, when referring to lox and bagels, I'm never sure if they mean steel locks or fish lox, so I'm always being corrected."
Of course no one loves to correct Amnesia more than the Reverend Mother.
"Rev. Mother is very happy in this play because this time she gets to sing a song about her weight," said Conklin. "She sings, 'My Fat is My Fortune and I'm a Millionaire,' and I dedicate this performance to all the big girls."
A new friend
Joining the sisters on stage for the first time is the character of Howard Liszt, played by Cerrone, who is also a first-timer with the Park Players.
"I'm a Russian Jew who gets mixed up in this wacky debacle and tries to teach the nuns how to speak Yiddish and get them immersed in the Yiddish way," said Cerrone.
As an added showstopper, the cast of "Meshuggah-Nuns" has a special change of dress for any performance attended by members of the Red Hat Society, affectionately known as Red Hatters, which is an organization for women over 50 years old. For those shows, the Little Sisters of Hoboken will appear in red, pink and purple habits.
The Park Players are also working on their next production, "Suessical the Musical" in collaboration with Union City's Woodrow Wilson School.
Runs in Weehawken
"Meshuggah-Nuns" will run from Nov. 9 through Nov. 13 at the Weehawken Elks Lodge No. 2, 50th Street and Boulevard East, Weehawken, and will include dinner beginning at 6:30 p.m. The show will begin at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. On Thursday and Sunday, dinner begins at 1:30 p.m., and the show begins at 3 p.m.
Tickets are $45 and $43 for seniors and students, respectively. Group rates are available for 15 or more people. To reserve seats, call (201) 941-6030. Jessica Rosero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org