Agnes of God, produced by 9th Hour Theatre in the GCTC Studio, features a three-woman cast in a play about a young nun who may or may have a special connection to the divine and who may or may not have killed her newborn baby.
Should you see it?
Agnes of God is the story of a young nun accused of strangling her newborn baby with its umbilical cord and hiding it in a waste basket. Agnes is a special girl, a bit simple and unworldly, with a special relationship to God. The play is built on a series of interviews between Agnes and court-appointed shrink, Dr. Martha Livingstone. Agnes’ Mother Superior rounds out this competent three-handed drama, which is also part debate between faith and science. Finding out what actually happened to the baby is balanced equally with a power play between the two women who both have differing opinions on what’s best for Agnes.
Janet Rice is a strong fit to embody Mother Miriam Ruth, also Agnes’ aunt, who’s very protective of the already sheltered young woman and of her connection to God. She had a higher than expected number of line flubs but that’s hopefully just opening night jitters which’ll work themselves out as the run continues. Anna Lewis steps capably into the shoes of the doctor with a hard time hiding the chip on her shoulder against the Church and who becomes even less objective as she starts becoming more obsessed with the young Agnes. Gabrielle Lazarovitz does a wonderfully beautiful job with Agnes, both playing the simple and possibly delusional young nun as well as jumping commandingly into Agnes’ deeper and more emotional layers when they crop up. She also has a terrific voice, which is a key facet to the character since it’s Agnes’ angelic voice that represents her delicate connection to the divine.
9th Hour has the GCTC Studio, set up as theatre in the round (well, horseshoe, anyway) with a pretty simple set and floor treatment that evokes a chess board reflective of the struggle between Mother Miriam Ruth and Dr. Livingstone for Agnes’s soul. This seating arrangement keeps everybody intimately close to the action but the problem with theatre in the round is that, while it works great when there’s lots of movement, there are extended static scenes in Agnes of God where cast members aren’t facing sections of the audience. Worse; times when one actor is blocking another for an extended conversation resulting in the only thing you seeing being an actor’s back. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.
The most important thing to note going in is that there’s a lot of (herbal cigarette) smoking throughout this play. If you’re sensitive or allergic, you may have problems making it through to the end. My audience had one walk-out mid way through – who was unfortunately almost as far as possible on the horse shoe from the door. I lucked out because I’m usually on the sensitive side and it didn’t bother me this time. Your mileage will vary.
There were other little things (like inter-scene scenelets that felt out of place and distracted) but nothing that would make me not recommend this play if it interests you. Overall, it’s a fine presentation that you can find at the Studio on the second floor of the Great Canadian Theatre Company’s Irving Greenberg Theatre until November 10th. Find the full details, including photos, in our preview.
What did you think? How did you find the ending? Where do you sit when it comes to smoking on stage? Join the discussion in the comments below.
All photos in this article taken for Production Ottawa by Production Ottawa photographer, David Pasho.