CUMBERLAND - Sometimes, I get a telephone call from someone who is assigning me more work to do, and as much as I love to write, sometimes meeting deadlines is very challenging at best.

By Trish Morgan
For the News Tribune
CUMBERLAND - Sometimes, I get a telephone call from someone who is assigning me more work to do, and as much as I love to write, sometimes meeting deadlines is very challenging at best.
One of the honors I have as a writer is having the opportunity to attend local community theatre productions and watch these very talented actors take on roles that are so far out of their comfort zone. And then, somehow write about my experience.
Recently, I was in the audience at Cumberland Theatre's "Drinking Habits," and frankly, I had no idea what the production was about. Of course, I had read the synopsis on the Facebook event - where it gave an outline of the plot. And being an actor myself, I knew many of the cast members. And, I knew regardless of the plot that these actors would put on an outstanding production.
So I settled in my seat with my trusty pencil and notebook, leafed through the well-designed program that Cumberland Theatre produces each year, and waited patiently for the actors to take the stage.
The stage was wonderfully-set in the 1950s in a convent where the Sisters of Perpetual Sewing lived. The convent was run by Mother Superior, played on point by Nicole Halmos. Mother Superior ran a tight ship with her nuns, who were responsible for sewing and repairing the priests' cassocks and clothing. I am a great fan of Ms. Halmos, and on stage she never disappoints. Her role as Mother Superior was played to perfection, and she has such a keen sense of comedic timing.
I had the pleasure of seeing Nicole recently on stage at Embassy Theatre in the renowned "Cabaret" earlier this spring, and her role in "Drinking Habits" is so much different from Frau Schneider. In this production, however, I learned that a Mother Superior could be quite hilarious and sneaky!
As for the play itself, I learned all about Satan's Mouthwash, Lucifer's Libation and Satan's Toilet Water - all aptly described by Mother Superior and the Sisters of Perpetual Sewing. I knew this show was farcical, and I knew it would be funny, but I was floored by the hilarity of every single cast member!
There was Johnna Leary, who played sister Philamena with her "Uhhhhhhhh, Uhhhhhhhh, Uhhhhhhhh" - after all, nuns don't lie, or sneak or make wine right under the nose of Mother Superior - trying to make money for the convent so they can continue to help the children there! You nailed it, Johnna!
Two reporters who were once ready to marry (Sally, played eagerly and with such energy and enthusiasm by Lily Kerrigan), and her jilted fiance Paul (so hilariously played by Todd Mazzie), were assigned come into the convent and discover if there were shenanigans about! They go undercover in the most crazy, unexpected ways! There are reporters who dress up as a nun and a priest, then one of the reporters dresses up as Father Paul, who is dressing as a nun to spy for Mother Superior to see who the spy really is! Got that????!!!
Then there is Sister Mary Catherine, played so sweetly by Aimee Conley, who hears voices and enters the convent undercover as a nun (she is only a novice), and her guilty conscience wants to confess to someone. Sister Augusta (played up in fashion by Kimberli Rowley) encourages her along. C O N F E S S......
C O N F E S S...
Then there is the groundskeeper George, played over the top by Tim Bams (what a gifted actor!) - who ends up pretending to be a priest who is going to spy under the direction of Father Chenille. One of THE MOST FUNNY scenes in the play is George at the reception toward the end of the production - helping himself to a punchbowl filled with "deliciousness." I won't give it away, but this scene is worth the admission price!!!
The director of "Drinking Habits" Matt Bannister worked wonders with the direction of these actors. Many of us have seen slow-motion scenes in television shows and movies. Well, come to see Mr. Banister's work and you will see something you have never seen in local theater!! These actors get physical, and I guarantee you that they got a workout every time they had rehearsal!
The gist of the play is whether or not the convent has been making wine and selling bottles in the community. Someone has to find out the truth. The ways that the truth unravel will boggle your mind, and make you laugh all evening long! For those of you who know of Kimberli Rowley and the many, many productions she has directed and starred in, it is also worth the admission to see her play Sister Augusta! Kimberli Rowley as a nun - priceless. Always owns the stage...even as a nun.
In closing, let me tell you that in this play, everyone is in disguise in one form or another. There is the trunk, there is the High Holy Closet, there is the Pressing Room, there is the kitchen, there is Sister Mary Mary, and Father Chenille (new to the Cumberland stage Erik Alexis, and who certainly made his mark in this production!), grape juice drinking, wine making, and a transformation of Mother Superior that will surprise and delight even the most conservative theatre-goer.
"Drinking Habits" will be showing just two more times - Saturday evening at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoon for the final matinee at 2 p.m. Cumberland Theatre is located at 101 North Johnson Street, Cumberland. Tickets will be available at the door, or reserve tickets at box office by calling 301- 759-4990.