So I haven’t reviewed anything for a month. Got busy with freelance work and the library, but that doesn’t mean that I stopped reading. I never stop reading. Or listening for that matter. And that’s how I finally got around to listening to a couple of plays that have been riding on my Audible account for a while. So while I was packing up PINES a few weeks ago, I listened to the 90 minute run of Agnes of God.
The story follows psychologist Dr. Livingstone who has been appointed by the courts to establish the mental state of Agnes, a nun living in a New York convent. However, Agnes is always accompanied to these sessions by her Mother Superior, an older nun who is protective of Agnes. Agnes presents two interesting problems that Livingstone must contend with: first, she has been accused of murdering her newborn baby by strangling it with the umbilical cord and then throwing it in the trashcan. Second, Agnes is remarkably naive. She has no idea what sex is, has never dated, never seen a TV show or a movie, and is in every way a modern innocent. As the play progresses, Livingstone becomes increasingly engrossed in the case, convinced that Agnes is innocent, but unable to accept the possibility without having another rational explanation for these actions.
Needless to say in a play that centers around the convergence of faith and psychological practice, rational explanations are hard to come by. Livingstone is convinced a priest knocked Agnes up, while Agnes claims it was an angel or God. No one is ever sure of anything, and in many ways, its like the story of Doubt, just covering a different subject matter.
The character relationships in this production were superb. Whenever I do the audio version of a play, I always very British (where you go to “listen” to a play). But really, this was very good, though I found the characters to be frustratingly, realistically flawed. The Mother Superior refuses to push Agnes for a real story or investigate who the father might have been (or the murder, for that matter). Instead, she relies on her faith and her desire to believe in miracles and goodness in the modern world. Livingstone lets her hatred of Catholicism cloud her judgment, and her over-investment in Agnes’s innocence blinds her to the fact that Agnes may in fact be guilty. And Agnes…poor Agnes. A life lived in fantasy made a break with reality all too easy, making it impossible for her to give straight, real answers to the horrific crime this story involves. And while these people are frustrating in their lack of perfection, that is what makes them so engaging.
This play may raise more questions than it ultimately answers, but that’s something I always like about theatre: it gives you an engrossing story that gives you something to talk about on the car ride home. If I wanted every question answered, I’d just watch network TV.
JMF Rating: 7.5/10
‘Til next time,