If there’s one thing you can expect from Cahoots Theatre Company, it’s that you have no idea what you’re in for. Sure, a play might have a title, a synopsis—but it’s all a covert scheme to pull the rug out from underneath you once you’ve sat down. Sister Mary’s A Dyke?! is no exception.
This one-woman show, written and performed by Flerida Peña, is a journey through a young woman’s changing relationship with her God and a discovery of her sexuality, the struggle between the dogma of Catholicism and her awakening feelings for her classmate, Elle.
From the moment you sit down, the pious tone is immediately communicated. Peña ‘s character, Abby, is both at home in the setting of her Catholic boarding school and at odds with it—and the audience can feel the discomfort of her youthful confusion over her traditions. But it takes almost no time for the story and for Abby to become fully realized, and take the audience on a seriously hilarious ride.
Abby’s journey is narrated through her conversational prayers to Jesus. Though Abby has been raised in a climate of oppression surrounding women and sexuality, when she is faced with the reality of her convictions, her feelings, and her longing to see happiness and freedom for the women around her, she brings her questions straight to her deity, who guides her transformation from a timid school-girl to a fearless freedom fighter. Her trust in this deeply personal relationship with her spirituality is what allows her to revise and rebuild a new Catholicism that addresses the needs and the reality of the many diverse women she has grown close to. In this way, Sister Mary’s a Dyke?! offers a way to negotiate one’s identity and political convictions with a spiritual commitment to a faith that must once again grow to represent the ethos of it’s flock.
If you’ve got any Catholic in your past, the set will be immediately familiar. A central stage, hung about with cathedral-esque window frames and spot-illuminated to show the passage of time, mimics religious spaces, then transforms into a classroom, a campsite, or locker-lined high-school hallway. The minimal props – a row of small benches, and later, to much laughter, a small tent – are used sparingly, and the space is just big enough for one person to fill. Flerida Peña’s voice is gloriously enjoyable, and her physical presence on stage is energetic and earnest. She’s a pleasure to watch.
We would have liked to see the events of the ending continue on the ground-breaking, boundary-busting-ness that the rest portrays, and see Abby’s newly discovered strength fully carried through into her future. Nonetheless, Sister Mary’s A Dyke?! comes highly recommended, offering compassion, bewilderment and plenty of surprises that will leave you laughing and just slightly wishing that you too were a Catholic lesbian radical activist, fully loaded and en route to Vatican City to deliver some justice.