The Santa Clara Players production of Drinking Habits by American playwright Tom Smith, which opened to a full house on Feb. 14 and runs through March 7, is an on-going Valentine’s Day gift to the community.
Set entirely within the walls of the penny-pinched Convent of the Sisters of Perpetual Sewing, Drinking Habits is an improbable, farcical story with laughter, love in its heavenly and earthly manifestations and — très California — local wine.
As any seamstress knows, it’s hard to make a living by sewing habits alone. So, unbeknownst to the Mother Superior, the two down-to-earth nuns of the convent discover a Christ-like way to keep the convent afloat. They turn grapes to fine wine that is much coveted by the local community.
When Mother Superior learns that Rome is closing convents, she fears that her convent of three may be one of them. New arrivals at the convent trigger her fear that Rome has sent an undercover agent to invoke final judgment on them.
Things get complicated when two journalists who would do anything—even go undercover at a convent—for a good story, come sniffing to discover whether the convent secretly makes wine.
“Do you realize how many sins you’ll be committing if you impersonate a nun?” one reporter asks the other before donning a priest’s robe. “This is ethically, morally, religiously wrong.”
The fast-paced, silly story kept the rehearsal-night audience laughing at changing identities and resulting antics. Surprises in the plot and ending heightened the laughs.
“It’s a farce. We’re here to have fun,” said Santa Clara resident Dave Leon, the director. “We’re not looking for deeper meaning. It’s a fun night out.”
The characters had impeccable timing as they delivered their lines while darting in and out of the main room of the convent through five doors, rolling under a table and hiding in a trunk.
It’s a delightful cast of eight. Though not new to acting, all are debuting with the nonprofit community theater.
“The material is the blueprint. What the actors do with it is what makes it as good as it is,” said Leon. “They’ve done the material justice and then some.”
Saratoga resident Bill Shepard helped his wife, Karen Fahrner, practice her lines as Sister Augusta.
“It’s a mystery how these performers do all these things and succeed. It’s a very competent cast,” said Shepard. “If you enjoy zany comedy, this is really good.”
If you’re formerly Catholic like Sylvia Seibert from Palo Alto and Kate Mayer from San Jose, you won’t be offended.
“If you’re Catholic,” said Seibert, who attended Catholic schools, “you would reminisce. It brings up memories.”
“A show like this gives people the opportunity to leave everything behind for a couple hours and just laugh,” said Leon. “Don’t wait until the last show to get tickets.”
Visit www.scplayers.org for information and tickets, a bargain at $20 general, $18 seniors and $10 students.