by Joan Tupponce
Anything can happen when the ladies of The Charitable Sisterhood of the Second Trinity Victory Church get together to sort through a heaping pile of items that have been donated to help the victims of a global disaster. The show, playing at Virginia Rep Hanover Tavern, opens with Tina, the group’s newest member, being schooled by the feisty Lorraine on the ins and outs of dealing with the group’s matriarch Bea, who likes being in charge. Their sorting efforts are interrupted first by Janet who has just moved into the neighborhood and has fought the rain to help out, and then by Riley who is hiding out at the church.
The comedy kicks into overdrive when the treacherous rainstorm knocks the lights out. That short blackout starts a series of events that reveal some of the women’s deepest secrets.
Virginia Rep’s production is the world premiere of this comfortable, lighthearted play, written by Richmond’s own Bo Wilson, and directed by Bruce Miller. Virginia Rep staged the world premiere of Wilson’s play, Mona’s Arrangements, a while back.
The show’s ensemble cast moves through the plot like a well-oiled machine. The women have great chemistry with one another and know how to milk a great line for laughs.
Donna Miller is convincing in her role as Janet, the newbie who is harboring a few secrets of her own. Louise Keeton brings a timid nature to her role as Riley, a desperate woman who reveals the most shocking secret of all.
Jan Guarino displays a comfortable shyness as Tina, a former nurse that wants to help in any way she can. Guarino’s lively interactions with Debra Wagoner who plays the sassy Lorraine are fun to watch. Wagoner shows her comedic skills with every line she delivers. If you were lucky enough to hear Wagoner in Always Patsy Cline a few seasons ago, you’ll appreciate her onstage talents even more with this role.
Catherine Shaffner is downright hilarious as the headstrong, outspoken Bea. Her comic presence is genius. (This is no surprise as Shaffner came close to stealing the show as Oiser in Virginia Rep’s Steel Magnolias.)
Kudos go to set designer Terrie Powers for managing the overflowing heap of goods that is always the center of attention. Virginia Rep conducted a fun donation drive earlier this year, so you may see some items you recognize.
The Charitable Sisterhood of the Second Trinity Victory Church is a hoot, although it does have its serious moments. It’s a funny and delightful summer treat from a gifted ensemble cast. The show runs through August 24 at Virginia Rep Hanover Tavern.
Look into group ticket discounts, same-day rush tickets, and U-tix discounts for high school and college students. Tickets are available at Virginia Rep or call 804-282-2620.