BEVERLY — Anyone who had strict teachers in school probably didn’t think they were funny.
But “Late Nite Catechism,” a play that re-creates a parochial school classroom, has proved to be so hilarious that it has spawned six sequels since debuting 20 years ago.
“Everything I talk about is true, I don’t make anything up,” said Maripat Donovan, who co-wrote the play with Vicki Quade, and the sequels with Marc Silvia. “You’re going to learn a lot about Catholicism, whether you want to or not.”
The play, which will be at the Larcom Theatre in Beverly for 16 performances starting Tuesday, is presided over by a nun in full habit known simply as Sister.
She leads the audience through lessons in doctrine, explains the nature of sin and asks lots of questions.
“It’s all about having a conversation,” Donovan said. “That’s the secret to it. Most of the material comes from improvisation. Sometimes the audience gives you the joke.”
Sister has also been known to discipline any “pupils” who dare to wear revealing clothing or display other inappropriate behaviors.
“Keeping in mind it’s a comedy, and we want to have fun — why don’t you come to the play chewing gum?” Donovan said.
Donovan said she got the idea for the play at dinner one night, where she started telling stories about the lives of the saints, and her friends were all laughing.
“One friend says, ‘This is really funny stuff, you should do something about this,’” she said.
The play, which was named “Late Nite Catechism” because its first performances were held at 11 p.m., was originally slated to run for 12 shows over six weeks.
It has drawn audiences continually since then, moving from stage to stage in Chicago as theaters shut down but continuing to draw audiences.