Rodgers and Hammerstein this definitely is not.
Unlike Maria in “The Sound of Music,” when Sister Elizabeth Donderstock ventures into the outside world in “The Book of Liz,” she finds it not so much to her liking.
What she does find in the David and Amy Sedaris-penned comedy is a world populated by quirky characters, including Cockney-speaking Ukrainians, recovering alcoholics and a “Mr. Peanut” impersonator who promises “the way to a better life.”
“The Book of Liz” opens its New Orleans premiere tonight at the newly renamed Theatre at St. Claude (formerly Marigny Theatre) for a three-weekend run through Aug. 15.
The all-local cast features Margeaux Fanning in the title role, plus Kathryn Talbot, Kyle Daigrepont and Joel Derby in multiple supporting roles. Jim Fitzmorris is the director.
The play follows Sister Elizabeth, whose uniquely flavored cheeseballs have largely sustained her order, the Squeamish, at the Clusterhaven religious community. Along comes a new senior priest who thinks another, much younger priest can make a better cheeseball, and he puts the two cheeseballs through a taste test.
In protest, Sister Elizabeth defects from the cloistered life for what she thinks might be a better life on the outside, becoming just plain “Liz.” But without her famous cheeseballs to support it, the nunnery is in dire straits. Now Liz faces a quandary. Does she go back to her old “habits” or follow her secular “calling”?
Fanning was seen most recently in the Jefferson Performing Arts Society’s production of “Sex Please, We’re Sixty.” Talbot, who plays six characters, is a lawyer in private practice who’s been active in the New Orleans theatrical scene for more than 20 years.
On opening night, Fitzmorris will be unveiling the full season of productions scheduled for The Theatre at St. Claude. The theater, at St. Claude Avenue and Marigny Street in the Faubourg Marigny, has gone through a number of managerial and name changes in recent years. Under the current management team of Fitzmorris and his brother, Ryan, the space has undergone extensive restorations and improvements in recent months.
The Fitzmorrises’ Broken Habits Productions, along with Fanning and Talbot’s Two Duxx Productions, are co-producing the show.
Tickets are $20, plus a $2.09 service charge. The Aug. 6 performance will be an “industry night” with tickets discounted to $15 (plus $1.82) for theater performers and crew members. Curtain times are 8 p.m. all nights. For information, call (504) 638-6326 or visit www.eventbrite.com.