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This could be habit-forming: ‘Nunsense’ brings fully staged live theater back to Fresno

It’s going to be quite a night. The Good Company Players production of “Nunsense” opens Thursday, May 20, and runs through July 11.

Pictured above: Dorie Sanders, Camille Gaston and Emily Pessano star in ‘Nunsense.’ Photo: Good Company Players

In “regular” times, this would be just another stop for the ever-running train of GCP productions, which for decades has run with a precision that would make Mussolini proud.

But these aren’t regular times, as you know.

The last mainstage performance at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater was 431 days ago. The theater went dark.

GCP took some baby steps in the post-vaccination era with a small musical cabaret, “In the Meantime,” which opened April 23.

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“Nunsense,” however, is the first fully staged production in a long, long time. The dressing rooms upstairs will be silent no more.

Here are 5 Things to Know about the show:

1.

It’s silly and tuneful.

The premise: The ranks of the Little Sisters of Hoboken have been decimated because of a food-poisoning incident perpetrated by Sister Julia, Child of God. We meet five of the lucky ones who remain rooted in this temporal realm, while dozens more have departed for more lasting ethereal accommodations. One would think that the trauma of losing so many of their closest companions would drive those still alive into a sticky morass of unending grief, but these nuns are surprisingly resilient. Instead of deep mourning, they rally to raise money to bury four of their dead sistren — currently stored in the convent freezer — by putting on a musical-variety show. This is a comedy, after all.

As for the songs, they’re a catchy mishmash of musical genres, and the nun puns keep coming.


2.

It’ll be a trip down memory lane for veteran GCP-goers.

This is the third time for the company to stage “Nunsense.” The first production was in 1991; the second was in 2000. “Nunsense: Second Coming” came in 1994, and “Nunsensations” hit the boards in 2011. Yes, there is a “Nunsense” franchise.

Fun facts: Elizabeth Fiester played the Mother Superior in the first two original “Nunsense” productions and returns in the role in the third. After this run, she’ll practically have enough credits for a nun pension. Another cast member who has made this a habit is Janet Glaude, also in the first two shows. They’re joined by Emily Pessano, Camille Gaston and Dorie Sanders.


3.

The rehearsal period was, um, different.

“We started out rehearsing in my backyard,” says director Laurie Pessano. “The neighbors enjoyed that, I’m sure.”

Those outdoor rehearsals could also be a hazard: Chairs were set up to keep the cast of five from dancing into the pool. Mosquitos attacked after dark. Down jackets and fuzzy blankets were required when Fresno had a cold spell.

As for the show’s Zoom rehearsals, which were required during those past months with really bad COVID numbers, Pessano will not miss them.


4.

The Junior Company pre-show is inspired.

Really, the pre-show is directly inspired by the pandemic; Dan Pessano has dubbed the kids who perform as The Vaccinations. All Junior Company members in the pre-show have to be appropriately vaccinated, which makes the age range of the group skew older. They are clad in parochial school uniforms, a nod to “Nunsense’s” Mount St. Helen’s School.


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5.

Precautions abound.

Good Company is following strict pandemic protocol as befits the Orange Tier, which Fresno County is currently in. That means only 35% of audience capacity is allowed in the theater (which works out to about 90 people). Other protections:

All actors, crew and personnel have shown proof of vaccination. Pessano asked the cast if it wanted to stick with the pre-vaccination staging — with characters socially distanced — or if they wanted to get closer. The cast members chose the closer option.

All ticket buyers will have to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test given within the last 72 hours.

People will be seated in “pods” if they buy tickets together. (The more groups of six and eight who can fill whole tables that attend together, the more tickets can be sold. But singles and couples are encouraged, too.)

After finishing dinner and during the performance, audience members must wear masks.

Pessano acknowledges that some people might chafe at the safety requirements, but she emphasizes that the theater company has followed the rules throughout the pandemic.

‘It’s time we all get together and laugh together,” she says. “But we do have to hold the line on the vaccinations and the tests. We don’t want to be the cautionary tale.”

You can save that for the Little Sisters of Hoboken, Think twice before you eat your vichysoisse.


Show info

‘Nunsense,’ a Good Company Players production at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theatre. Continues through July 11. Tickets (some including dessert or dinner) are $33-$62.


Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

donaldfresnoarts@gmail.com

Comments (1)

  • Jackie Ryle

    Wonderful article about a wonderful experience. Was fortunate and thrilled to see In The Meantime (what a great title). So exciting and fun to be back in the house and see our favorite performers and Director on the stage. Sorry some can’t be happy with what we get to have, rather than fretting about what they don’t have. It’s a wonderful experience and can’t wait for Nonsense and all the rest of the shows. Thank you Dan Pessano and entire company of stakeholders for hanging in and being there for us, and Donald for sharing the experience in your own inimitable style. Welcome back!

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