The “Catholic school girl ” may be a cliche but I’m proud to say that’s just what I am. From ages 6-17 I spent the majority of my time in a plaid uniform. My schools days were long past the era of the nuns, about 90% of my teachers were lay folk, but I still consider myself a part of the parochial students club. I look back at the majority of those years with fondness so whenever a nostalgic production comes around I can’t resist it. Such was the case with Steve Mazur’s Bad Habits – a currently playing at the Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica.
Bad Habits is a brand new production from veteran screenwriter Steve Mazur. Inspired by the nostalgic Catholic school days of yore it tells the tale of the Sisters of St. Cyril’s who run an inner city school. After an unfortunate accident their home and livelihood is threatened by an overzealous bishop who envisions a brand new cathedral taking its place. But it’s Christmas and the timing is just about right for a miracle.
The story is an irreverent yet heartwarming take on a classic Christmas tale. These aren’t your nuns of old and they have the same flaws as anyone else yet the production can’t help but be nostalgic. It may take place in the present day but, though they may curse like sailors, these nuns still wear full habits and practice traditional handicrafts (they’re famous for their homemade bread). They’re a sweet throwback to a simpler time and I couldn’t help but be filled with warmth.
The cast is led by husband and wife duo Alley Mills and Orson Bean. I must admit I was pretty excited by this as the Wonder Years and Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman were heavy in my childhood television rotation. Both were absolutely wonderful in their roles. Ms. Mills played the tough talking, pragmatic Mother Superior with aplomb and Mr. Bean was hilarious as the prideful, corny joke spewing Bishop.
Another standout was Jacquelin Lorraine Schofield as the sweet, somewhat naive Sister Anthea. Always enthusiastic and ready with a song she was utterly delightful and I found myself wishing I had been lucky enough to have her as my teacher. And what a set of pipes! You haven’t heard a good hymn until you’ve heard Ms. Schofield sing it.
Bad Habits isn’t a perfect play (a subplot involving a mysterious stranger didn’t quite work for me) but it is a delightful one. Filled with nostalgia, hope and absolute joy it’s the perfect remedy for these cynical times we live in. I left the theatre a much happier person than when I arrived and that’s enough for me.
Whether you went to Catholic school or not Bad Habits is an enjoyable way to spend an evening. It’s currently playing at Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica and runs through January 26. Tickets are available here.