A pair of anorexic nuns cross a neon pink crucifix to air their laundry—so begins The Ecstatics. Sisters Marguerite and Abegail are the last standing pair of nuns from a convent bent on self-perfection through eating disorders. The premise has promise, to be sure, but an inconsistent, overlong script keeps The Ecstatics from being as brilliant as it could so easily be.
Still, Ruth Madoc-Jones and Erika Hennebury must be praised for penning something that dares to touch on a serious issue while remaining relatively irreverent. The play examines societal pressures placed on women—the need to be perfect, thin and innocent while striving for domestic perfection—through the lens of religious devotion. It’s a clever device, and often it works quite well. But at fifty-five minutes, the idea wears itself out. The tone is also a bit muddled, veering from hilarious to melodramatic without a stop in between. Still, points are awarded for light slapstick that’s actually funny.
The real strength of The Ecstatics—and the reason this play should really not be missed—is its two actors, Dana Puddicombe and Jane Maggs. Both are absolutely brilliant in their almost-zombie makeup and outlandish delirium, playing off each other perfectly. Maggs, as Abegail, is bitchy and deluded; Puddicombe is charming and goofy, with an impish grin.
See it for the catwalk scenes alone. Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” has never been put to better use.
Photo courtesy of summerworks.ca.