The subtitle of Jonathan Norton's latest play Ain't This Some Sh*t! enfolds a critical outline for the play itself: "A Conservative Right-wing Guide to Over-simplifying the Complexities of the Female Body and Extolling the Virtues of Jesus' Southern Fried Treat."
This ambitious new work, which opens the theater season for TeCo Theatrical Productions, parodies Chick-fil-A, televangelism and reality TV in one deft 75-minute swipe at the subjects. The plot centers on Reverend Mother (an amusing performance by Pedro Perez II in a nun's habit) and Sister Mary Katherine (Krishma Trejo), who are conned into allowing their nunnery to play host to a reality TV show by Mr. Cox (James Casarez)—an overtly sleazy network executive for the Evangelical Broadcast Company.
The show is called Break the Habit and every week America votes to kick a nun out of the convent. A rogue nun, who used to be a stripper named Charisma, captures America's heart with her theatrics and long legs. Before they realize it, Reverend Mother and Sister Mary Catherine are booted out.
While the main target of the play's satire is reality TV like The Real World or Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, it also ventures into other pop culture and political arenas including abortion, frat houses and the anti-gay chicken establishment in this show Chick-n-Pray carries the tagline, "Where our chicken's holy, so you don't have to be."
This play abounds with punchlines, some more poignant than others. Norton's light, snappy voice is present in the script and he walks a fine line between sentimental and sarcastic in the show's direction, grounding the show with a sense of realism despite the kooky settings.
The cast delivers solid performances, Perez is delightful as Reverend Mother blurring the gender lines right and left, eventually wandering away from the church for a life of cursing and drinking. Casarez transitions from Mr. Cox into a frat boy with "baby momma drama" without doing a disservice to either character. And Trejo's evolution out of a simpering pushover drives the show's plotline, which revolves around that hide beneath conservative right wing ideals.
Despite the comic Shakespearean ending, Norton does not pretend to draw conclusions, instead allowing the conflicts to rest. Ain't This Some Sh*t! may not be a guide through the complexities, as much as a side-splitting revelation.
◊ Here's a video preview and interview with the playwright: