Agnes of God | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Agnes of God, Projectheater, at Holy Covenant United Methodist Church. The interpretation adopted in this debut production might have made sense if playwright John Pielmeier had written a standard whodunit and the setting were secular--if Agnes, the young woman discovered unconscious after giving birth and possibly murdering her baby, were a college student, for example, and Miriam the school dean. But in Pielmeier's play, Agnes is a novitiate nun and Miriam her mother superior, giving their interrogation by a court-appointed psychiatrist prejudiced against Catholics intellectual dimensions that go far beyond solving a murder.

Unfortunately these complexities are largely ignored by directors Jean-Paul Menou and Frank Pullen and their cast, who appear more interested in characters' emotional conflicts than in the script's abstract speculation. Though the play establishes that Agnes is a withdrawn child nurtured in isolation, Wendy Avon makes her an assertive brat motivated not by inner serenity but by stubborn willfulness: at one point she facilitates a hasty exit by pulling her long skirts up above her knees like Cinderella fleeing the ball--not what we expect after five years of convent life. By contrast Laurie Larson's Miriam and Allison Cain's Dr. Livingstone are so wishy-washy that we're never convinced they have the convictions they say they do. And if they don't appear to hold those strong beliefs, what investment can we make in their conflict and the triumph of one over the other?

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