Front Row Center
By Michael Warren
Agnes of God
By John Pielmeier
Directed by Paul Kloegman
Evidently, John Pielmeier was inspired to write this play after seeing an article in a newspaper about an event that occurred in a convent in Brighton, New York, just outside the city limits of Rochester. However, the play is entirely fictional. There are only three characters – the psychiatrist “Dr Martha Livingstone”, the Mother Superior “Miriam Ruth” and the young nun “Sister Agnes.” A dead baby has been found strangled in a waste-basket in Agnes’ room, and she is on trial for first degree murder. Martha Livingstone is the court appointed psychiatrist who is required to report on Agnes’ sanity.
All three roles are extremely demanding, and are very well acted by Deborah Spitz, Jacinta Springer and Johanna Labadie. I could have been watching a Broadway production, and I was completely engrossed as the play unfolded. Much credit is due to director Paul Kloegman for the inspired performances by these three actors.
It becomes apparent during the play that Agnes is far from sane. She is a hysteric personality who was abused by her mother, and had an abnormal childhood without contact with other children. At times she displays elements of Multiple Personality Syndrome, and she also suffers from stigmata in the palms of her hands.
To escape her pain, she takes refuge in God, and sings in a voice of extraordinary clarity and beauty. Both the psychiatrist and the Mother Superior seek to protect her in different ways. Dr Livingstone, who has her own problems with the Catholic Church, would like to prove her innocence of the crime of which she is accused. And Mother Miriam Ruth, who feels that Agnes is innocent in a spiritual sense, would like to keep her safe within the walls of the convent.
Ultimately, both are disappointed in a couple of shattering scenes in Act Two, as Agnes reveals under hypnosis what actually happened and how she returned the baby to God.
Johanna Labadie’s performance as Agnes is extraordinary, while Deborah Spitz and Jacinta Springer bring a remarkable level of intensity and realism to their respective roles. We are fortunate to have such talented actors in this town, and this play proves (if proof were needed) that LLT is fully capable of producing serious drama.
I congratulate Paul Kloegman on successfully bringing this thought-provoking play to the stage, and thanks also to Stage Manager Margo Eberly, and Co-Producers Geoff and Judy Long. I should also mention the spare and beautiful Set Design by Sheron Brackenbury.
Next up is what promises to be a very entertaining musical event, Fiddler On The Roof, which opens on February 16 and runs through February 27.
Column: Front Row Center
Michael Warren grew up in London, England and lived on Baker Street very close to where Sherlock Holmes hung out his shingle. He graduated with an Honors degree in Mathematics from King’s College, Cambridge, which no doubt helps him to balance his check book. While a student, he edited a humorous magazine entitled “ffobia” which was widely circulated amongst his friends.