A Second Helping of Hilarity

You don’t have to be a Lutheran to enjoy The Church Basement Ladies but it does help to catch some of the cultural references missed by those unlettered in Lutheran memory work. The recurring refrain of “And this is most certainly true.” puzzled a few of those in the audience at the Clausen Center in Holstein last Saturday although it didn’t hinder their enjoyment of the show.

Nikki Savitt was outstanding as the irrepressible Mavis; ditto for Autumn O’Ryan as Vivian, an old softie but loathe to show it. Carrie Saloutos and Kimberly Steffen as Karin and her daughter Beverly effortlessly portrayed the dynamics of social change between generations. Kevin Grastorf as the Pastor morphed seamlessly from a traditional cleric to the guitar strumming leader of his flock.

We’ve all known someone like one of these folks and we’re glad we did. They are the glue that holds our communities together; the salt of the earth; or as the Bible puts it, “the shade of a great rock in a weary world”. The characters in this show are not relics of an earlier time although they do depict life as it was in the late sixties. They are real. They are what’s truest and best about ourselves. They portray small doings in a small town – a microcosm of the universe encapsulated on a stage.

They show us we’re not so different from our mothers, our grandmothers, our aunts. None of us are saints. There’s a fair amount of sniping that still goes on and there’s always going to be those who don’t want things to change just as there are innumerable acts of kindness done without fanfare and those who are driven to make things happen in new ways. It all evens out in the end.Church Basement Ladies

This thought was summed up beautifully in the closing scene where the elders of the kitchen presented their young apprentice with a hand made quilt for her new baby. They sang “The Tales of Your Heart – Row by row the stories grow stitched together by love.”. It was a tender moment wonderfully done.

Of course, there was plenty of hilarity as well. Scene Two had an exhilarating account of the story of Mary and Martha. “Why Jesus didn’t tell Mary to go help her sister, I’ll never know.” (Admit it. There are more than a few of us who have wondered that very thing.) This transitioned into a bit about Rosie, the Riveter with the memorable upper arm swinging in the breeze instead of forming a muscle and then the question was posed about being happy with one’s life. Incredulously Vivian shot back, “Happy?!?” Then briskly summed up her personal take on religion by soberly intoning, “We’re Lutherans. Happiness doesn’t come into it”. It brought down the house.

The set was a miracle of minutia right down to the folding plastic curtains
separating the kitchen from Fellowship Hall, the labels on the drawers, and the door to the furnace room. The costumes were minor miracles in their own way – spot on as the English would say. Kudos to the Pastor’s transformation from clerical collar to burgundy leisure suit with the requisite white shoes and belt.

CThis production showed lives in transition – rooted in the traditions of the past but still reaching up to the adventures of the future. It was a refreshing banquet presided over by The Basement Ladies. Long may they serve.