Catholic School Girls
By Casey Kurtti

Directed by Kimberly M. Fisher

REVIEW #1 - Northern Lights
By Anne-Margaret Bellavoine

Quicktake: Everything you always suspected, and even worse, in a Catholic girls' education.

This wonderful comedy by Casey Kurtti will hit close to home for anyone who grew up surrounded by the beatifically munificent habits and wimples of half a century ago.  If uniforms are still as pleasantly staid and plaid on contemporary campuses, the teaching nun is a sweet, or not so sweet, memory of the past.

If the theme will be familiar, the topic may shock staunch believers in its willingness to tackle the less appetizing aspects of a religious education and its effects on tender minds.

We follow the lives of Maria Theresa (Darcy Hogan), Elizabeth (Kelly Albano), Colleen (C.J.) and Wanda (Britt), as they embark on their spiritual and mental education from first through eighth grade graduation at St. George's School in a suburb in New York state, with its traditional Polish and Irish immigrants.   In an interesting twist, the program shows the four characters, as well as Stage Manager Michael Burgess and Director Kimberly M. Fisher, as they were in their childhood, the better to let you imagine the grown actresses in their pint-size personae.

Each of the girls has her unique personality, evident latent tendencies which are amply confirmed once puberty hits, from prissy to class clown and dunce.  One of the quartet regularly disappears to reappear as one of the same number of nuns, each also with their own quirks and idiosyncrasies, such as decrepit Sister Mary Agnes.  It's a co-ed school, but the boys remain invisible albeit often referred to.

In the early grades, the girls are subjected to relentless dogma piped down their gullible throats, with the resulting bigotry and intolerance toward all non-Catholics.  Myth, miracles, and superstition intermingle in the malleable minds, and get regurgitated in comic diatribes against all the unfortunate uninitiated, often prodding deep philosophical questions with their unfathomable answers given a distorted simplification by the little girls.

As they grow up, they begin to question their gobbling the gobbledygook, and, with impending puberty, gnawing doubts begin to poison and pervert their minds as their bodies develop with the profound changes harbingers of shameful longings.  The mystery of menarche looms, and, with it, the impending demise childhood versus impending womanhood, and what to do with it vis--vis the male population.

These repressed girls are as insensitive as any 21st century middle schooler.  But existential questions become life and death dramas of the raw intensity characteristic of adolescents since time immemorial.  Elizabeth in particular is deeply affected by the passing of her grandmother and holds God personally accountable for such mindless and vicious cruelty.

We leave the girls as they are about to embark on the next chapter of their lives, segregated from the boys into the virginal world of all girls' Catholic high schools, and from which they will emerge as duly prepped debutantes of impeccable pedigree for stolid marriages.

All four actresses give touching performances, spanning child and teenage hood and matronly maturity.

With Easter and its graphic portrayal in Mel Gibson’s controversial movie, this selection is serendipitously timely in the issues it raises as it wildly entertains.