‘Hail Mary 2: The Haunting’

‘Hail Mary 2: The Haunting’ is the sequel to last year’s ‘hit’ show by prolific playwright, Perth’s Noel O’Neill. Numerous Milly and Finley nominations and awards have come Noel’s way for his writing and directing, including several for the original hilarious ‘Hail Mary’.

This two-hour production, in two Acts, by the Old Mill Theatre Company, is in conjunction with Maverick Theatre Productions and can be seen at the Old Mill Theatre, on the corner of Mends Street and Mill Point Road, South Perth. There are shows at 8.00 on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, until Saturday 27th August. There are 2.00 pm matinées on Saturday 20th, Sunday 21st and 28th August.

The scene is the vestry and office of Father Costello. The walls are limestone blocks adorned with photos of religious dignitaries. To the right of the stage is an area that acts as part of the office, then as a courtyard garden.

The textbook costumes were supplied by Jenny Prosser, and Cathy Puzey.

Award winning lighting designer, John Woolrych has taken relative newcomer, John Spurling under his wing and allowed him to come up with some quite complex lighting effects. Spurling tried dimming the lights when a dramatic speech was being made, but did so with subtle careful control, the desired effect was excellent.

      It is late in the evening in the Our Lady of the Vines convent. Into the dimly lit office come two nuns, leaping and dancing to wild radio music. Yes, Sister Abbott (Caroline McDonnell – excellent) has been sipping the communion wine for most of the day. She is accompanied by the newest holy sister, nervous Rosa (Sofie Reidy-Crofts) who is still trying to come to terms with life in a convent.

      Staggering in comes Father Costello (Noel O’Neill – hilarious), as always the worse for wear. He heads straight for his whisky bottle.

      Since the tragic accidental death of the Mother Superior, Theresa (Norma Davis), dedicated Sister Marilyn (Susan Meikle) seems the only vestal interested in the religious faith, and the upkeep of the crumbling convent.

      The trendy Italian, Sister Vinnie (Valerie Dragojevic), who is trying to fight off her Mafia upbringing is sitting in the garden of Remembrance, listening to young Rosa’s concerns about some ghostly noises she has heard in the night. Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of the bewildered and worried Archbishop Monticello (Rex Gray). He has been sent by the church hierarchy, who have just learned about Father Costello’s dubious lifestyle, and has asked the Archbishop to give Costello a warning.

      Sister Francis (Vivienne Marshall) has come up with a sacrilegious suggestion to solve Rosa’s haunting problems, but under no circumstances must the Archbishop find out.

Director Noel O’Neill, assisted by Valerie Dragojevic have retained most of their previous, strong, award-winning team. Why not? The chemistry was again superb, with subtle delivery of the beautifully structured script and perfectly timed interaction. Great cast. Noel allowed himself to slip out of character and have a couple of ‘Boom, Boom’ jokes, but the audience loved it. There is certainly no place in Heaven for Noel.

The audience on the night I saw the show, included a couple of dozen fans, who were there to support their actor friends. Many of them had never been to a Community Theatre show before, and were blown away by the quality. One even said that she came prepared to fall asleep with boredom, but laughed the whole way through. They will all come back again.

Sequels are rarely as good as the original, but Noel’s zany lateral thinking has once again produced a laugh-a-minute show. Highly recommended. If you didn’t see the first episode, don’t worry, a knowledge of the previous show – fore play? – is not necessary.

Many nights are already sold out, so perhaps try Wednesday night or phone first.