Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, May 13, 1999

ACT excels in
retelling of mysterious
tale of ‘Agnes of God’

By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin


THE story is ugly, the acting is excellent as Army Community Theatre caps its "Sunday@2 Matinee Readers Theatre" series with a thought-provoking production of "Agnes of God."

Playwright John Peilmeier explores the aftermath as a nun is charged with murdering her newborn child. The story is told from the perspective of Dr. Martha Livingstone, a menopausal psychiatrist assigned by the court to evaluate the sanity of the young nun and her ability to stand trial.

If Sister Agnes is sane she'll go to prison. If not, she goes to "the nuthouse."

Unless, of course, someone else killed the baby while she was unconscious immediately after the birth.

If so, could that someone be Sister Miriam Ruth, the mother superior, who seems to know much more than she first admits about Agnes' pregnancy?

Could anyone in this day and age believe that Sister Agnes was impregnated by an angel? Or, that she has the miraculous ability to conceive parthenogenetically (without a male, as some species of geckos do)?

Did the "shy" priest who comes once a week to hear her confession break his vows? If not the priest, then who penetrated the convent to father the child?

To mention more would spoil the surprises Dr. Livingstone uncovers in her search for the truth. Some of her discoveries seem more probable than others but they all build to a fascinating climax.

Although this is "readers theater" with no sets or special lighting, and only the merest suggestions of costumes, ACT director Vanita Rae Smith and her cast make "Agnes of God" an impressive production and a memorable experience in local theater.

Eden-Lee Murray (Dr. Livingstone) anchors the show with a one of her best performances to date. Murray has a tremendous and demanding role as the courageous psychiatrist. Her skill in negotiating several scenes becomes crucial to the success of the show.

Stephanie Curtis Conching (Agnes) creates an arresting study in eerie innocence as the tormented and mentally unstable nun who tells Dr. Livingstone that God, his angels, and her dead mother regularly visit her, and that another spiritual entity sings through her.

Conching portrays Agnes' emotional turmoil and shifting sanity with chilling realism. Conching reaffirms her versatility with her performance.

Jo Pruden (Mother Miriam Ruth) follows her compelling work in ACT's "Ladies At the Alamo" with an equally impressive performance here. Pruden has played "venomous" perfectly in past shows, but there's more than that in this role and she illuminates every facet of it.

Doyal Davis provides occasional narration for the production.

Agnes of God

Bullet The site: Fort Shafter Richardson Theatre

Bullet The dates: 2 p.m. May 16 and 23

Bullet Tickets: $6-$8

Bullet Call: 438-4480 or 438-5230

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