Critical Context

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The Obie Award-winning Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You is the best known of the satiric comedies that constitute Christopher Durang’s dramatic canon. Although none of his other plays is as overtly critical of Catholicism as is this one, religion as a satiric target is not far below the surface in many of the other plays. In The Nature and Purpose of the Universe (pr. 1979), for example, he explores the existential question of human suffering and the ways in which religion, notably Christianity, tries to rationalize its meaning in the divine scheme of things, avoiding, as Sister Mary Ignatius so often does, the issue of God’s intentions in making innocent people suffer, and masochistically asserting that pain and anguish are somehow redemptive. Similarly, in The Marriage of Bette and Boo (pr. 1973, pb. 1976), people confronted with horrible physical and emotional pain are disabused of the notion that God punishes people for specific sins. Rather, God punishes everyone and for no particular reason, says one of the play’s main characters, Matt. (Durang himself played Matt in Joseph Papp’s 1985 production of the admittedly autobiographical play, and the dramatist’s performance earned for him another Obie, this one for acting.)

Placed within this context, the importance of Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You becomes apparent, for it is here that Durang focuses his haunting interest in the...

(The entire section is 423 words.)