Dr. Martha Livingstone begins “Agnes of God” by telling the audience that a baby has been born in a convent and found dead in a trash can, strangled by its umbilical cord.
The doctor is a court-appointed psychiatrist in charge of uncovering how 21-year-old Sister Agnes came to be pregnant and how or why she would kill the newborn. But it isn’t only Agnes she needs to interrogate; the convent’s Mother Superior appears to have personal reasons for protecting her novice nun that cannot be ignored.
In Lakeside Little Theatre’s second drama and fourth play of the season, Deborah Spitz as the Doctor, Jacinta Stringer as Mother Miriam Ruth and Johanna Labadie as Agnes create an impressive triumvirate seeking to uncover the truth of what happened in Sister Agnes’s room the night of the birth. That process exposes each character’s core, where secrets, doubts and spiritual beliefs have been kept private, until now.
Gloriously written by John Pielmeier, soul-searching is at the heart of “Agnes of God.” Not to be done solely through religion, but how do our beliefs affect our decisions? Are ethics and spirituality intertwined or separate and conflicting? Can a convent protect their own from the evils of reality, and at what cost? Director Paul Kloegman understands the dilemmas the play presents and he directs the cast with a steady hand, revealing each character’s flaws and deceits slowly and deliberately.
Spitz’s Livingstone is a non-believer, determined to get to the bottom of the mystery of the dead baby. She is totally convincing as a recovering Catholic with a deep-rooted dislike of nuns in general and a fierce desire to help Sister Agnes become whole through hypnosis and talk therapy. For her Agnes is laden with baggage.