Do Black Patent
Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?
Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre
Directed and choreographed
by Marc Robbin Horror stories abound about Catholic schools. I can tell you, as a 14-year veteran of them, that they aren't as bad as they used to be. Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? at Beef & Boards harkens back to the '50s, to the days of ruler-wielding nuns and gender-segregated high schools. But in this show, nothing is sacred, and whether you were a Catholic or a Public, you can find the humor in an ancient nun that does a Yoda-like dance. And there is something slightly perverse in grown women decked out in plaid uniforms (though some may see it as a selling point).
The story follows Eddie (Curt Dale Clark) back to his Catholic school days, beginning in the second grade. Interspersed with songs and situations, the real meat of the Catholic school experience is in Eddie's grade school years, where we meet the fearsome Sister Lee (in an uproarious performance by Donna Ryan) and the slightly sadistic Father O'Reilly (Chuck Goad, who provides an untouchable comic performance). Clickers, confession and fear of "the marriage act" are all instilled into our cast of impressionable characters. As the girls are told during their version of "sex ed," boys have only two drives: sex and hunger. Once one is fulfilled they will go after the other.
High school sees the characters beginning to react to what they have been taught. Wisdom imparted by an agnostic "older brother" and questioning a life of vocation are heavy matters, but the show keeps the atmosphere light.
The large cast does rare work here. Only occasionally taking the humor over the top into cheesy, the comedy plays out exceptionally well. Check out the clergy in sunglasses at the high school mixer or a student attempting fake voices to use during confession to hide his identity. Fun stuff.
Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? continues at B&B through Aug. 14, 9301 N. Michigan Road, 872-9664, www.beefandboards.com.