After conceiving and co-writing “Late Night Catechism”—now in its thirtieth year—playwright and performer Vicki Quade made a cottage industry out of nun-related comedies that are heavy on audience participation.
The format is familiar: a Catholic classroom where the audience functions as the body of students. In the case of the Halloween offering “Holy Ghost Bingo: God, Goblins & Games,” former nun Mrs. Mary Margaret O’Brien—played in rotation by Quade herself, Liz Cloud and on the Sunday matinee I caught, Nancy Greco—is hosting Holy Ghost Bingo at Our Lady of Good Fortune and informing us about Halloween traditions and trivia along the way.
Like all Catholic holidays, Halloween began as a pagan celebration, we learn, but was “lightened up” from its darker elements.
Had any of us heard about the attempt to change Halloween to the last Saturday in October? That would, of course, obliterate the trilogy of All Hallows’ Eve on October 31 followed by All Saints’ Dayon November 1 and All Souls’ Day on November 2.
A soul, we are told, is a ghost, and there are three kinds: friendly ghosts, unfinished business ghosts and malicious ghosts. The conviction and enthusiasm that Greco conveys as she explains with nun-like certainty how friendly ghosts like to take one of your socks out of the dryer is palpable. (And hysterical.)
Games have always been part of Halloween but bobbing for apples is not the same as divination, we are warned.
“Did anyone have one of these?” asks Mrs. O’Brien, holding up a sealed Ouija board. “Condemned by the Catholic Church. Why is that? You’re conjuring up spirits. Only Jesus can do that. And yet they still make them. And yet, on the box it says ages eight and up. You have to be eighteen to enter the army, twenty-one to drink legally but at age eight, you can conjure up spirits.”
Since “H” is for Halloween, Bingo is played—yes, for real, everyone gets a card—following the “H” shape on the card.
Holy cards are among the prizes for winners, but not just any holy cards: “you don’t just get these at a wake.” St. Christina the Astonishing, the patron saint of therapists and lunatics. Saints burned at the stake to “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” A decapitated saint whose rolling head brought forth gushing water.
One of the most entertaining aspects of the show is when audience members are transported back to their own childhood Halloweens, remembering their favorite costumes, favorite candy to receive trick or treating, favorite horror movies and ghost stories. More Bingo, more prizes.
“Anyone remember Neccos? The ideal candy to play Communion with.”
Resurrection Mary, the Iroquois Theatre fire ghosts, local lore galore. And like Halloween itself, some real chills are part of the fun.
“Holy Ghost Bingo: God, Goblins & Games” at Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 North Lincoln, greenhousetheater.org. Through October 29.