Monday, April 28, 2014
Agnes of God at Chapel Street PlayersWhen dealing with subject matter such as insanity, theology, and the death of an infant, you would expect Agnes of God to feel heavy, long. Fortunately, The Chapel Street Players of Newark tackle this tough, intense play in such a way that it leaves you thinking. So often productions that have a darker tone have a tendency to remind the audience just how serious everything is.
Kathleen Kimber's direction of this show focuses on the psychological thriller aspect of Agnes of God, rather than allow it to devolve into an exaggerated melodrama. Pete Matthews' set is very simple, which allows Kimber's direction and the acting to serve as the star. The fluidity of the set matched the pace of the production, which often flows from Dr. Livingstone's office to flashbacks of Agnes in the convent.
Mother Miriam Ruth and Agnes. Photo credit: Peter Che-Yu Kuo
Having never seen the 1986 film, I had very few preconceived notions. At the heart of Agnes of God is Agnes' sanity, after she allegedly kills her newborn child by wrapping the umbilical cord around its neck, and whether or not Dr. Martha Livingstone, played by Susie Moak, thinks that she should spend her sentence in an asylum or in prison. Did Agnes consciously know what she was doing, or does she truly not remember this traumatic event?
Dr. Livingstone listening to Agnes during a session. Photo credit: Peter Che-Yu Kuo
Susie Moak's performance as the chain-smoking Dr. Livingstone is powerful and moving. Moak talks directly to the audience as though we were her recorder, so she can play back her notes about this case. This particular device brings the audience into the action, almost asking our opinion on Agnes' sanity. Moak engages us, without making it seem uncomfortable. On the other hand, the formidable Mother Miriam Ruth, played by Ruth K. Brown, is very much the opposite of Dr. Livingstone. She has her own opinion, set in stone. I have had the opportunity to see Brown in more than one play this year, and she is truly talented. Having a nun in the family, I can assure you that Brown exudes everything that is the "nun vibe."
Mother Miriam Ruth meeting with Dr. Livingstone in her office. Photo credit: Peter Che-Yu Kuo
However, it is the performance of Aimee Theresa's Agnes that completely blew me away. There are so many complexities in Theresa's performance. Her Agnes slides from the so-called innocent voice of an angel to a someone deeply hurt by past experiences, to a woman who understands exactly what is happening around her, depending on what best serves her in that moment. Agnes is not an easy character to portray, nor understand, and yet Theresa fully captures the enigma that is Agnes.
Dr. Livingstone comforting Agnes. Photo credit: Peter Che-Yu Kuo
Agnes of God at the Chapel Street Players of Newark will leave you reeling. It forces you into the action, and commands your attention throughout the entire performance. You would do yourself a disservice by missing this production. The show does include adult content and the use of herbal cigarettes. Agnes of God runs until May 3rd. For tickets, call 302-368-2248 or visit http://www.chapelstreetplayers.org.
Posted at 5:26pm on April 28, 2014 by
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