A memorable “Agnès de Dieu” probes the secret of a nun at Colonial Players

The production of Colonial Players Agnes of God is an emotional exploration of religion, guilt and secrets. John Leonard Pielmeier’s 1979 play, which was made into a movie, follows a psychiatrist as she tries to unravel the mystery of a young nun who gave birth to a baby at the convent who was later found dead. Directed by Jeff Sprague, this production, which can be seen in person and via real-time live stream, combines excellent acting with creative lighting for a powerful and thought-provoking performance.

Ashleigh Bayer brings a childlike quality to Agnes. She responds to many of Dr. Livingstone’s (Laura Gayvert) questions with “I don’t know”. She also gets angry and scared quickly, shaking before the hypnotherapy sessions begin. She is deeply emotional as she slowly reveals her tragic childhood. She gives her most powerful performances while remembering that terrible night, screaming and crawling on the ground, showing the terrible details of what happened. She portrays a troubled and desperate young woman.

Mary MacLeod as Mother Miriam Ruth, Ashleigh Bayer as Sister Agnes, and Laura Gayvert as Dr. Martha Livingstone in “God’s Agnes.” Photos by Brandon Bentley.

Laura Gayvert gives Dr. Livingstone a deeply skeptical and analytical feel. Between sessions with Agnes, she speaks to the public, sharing her complicated history with the church and her own mother. Her relationship with Bayer is touching, as she slowly addresses issues, asks questions and builds support. With Mother Miriam (Mary Macleod), she becomes angry, asks probing questions, and is in disbelief at his answers.

Mary Macleod plays Mother Miriam, head of Agnes’ convent, with sternness and authority. She is skeptical of Dr. Livingstone, wanting her to make a diagnosis quickly and throwing defenses at the doctor’s questions. As she reveals her own past, she gains both sympathy and suspicion. She and Gayvert briefly bond over smoking and a discussion of how the Saints allegedly smoked cigarettes, but for most of the play the tension and conflict between them is high.

Set designer Terry Averill created a simple but effective set, with a desk and two chairs in the middle of the stage. Nearby is a large padded chair that turns into a psychiatrist couch. Costume designer Kaelynn Bedsworth’s outfits help encapsulate each character’s personality. Dr Livingstone looks professional in trousers and a jacket, with sensible heels, while Mother Miriam looks stern in her nun’s habit. Agnes, wearing a plain white dress and wimple, looks both witty and troubled; singing in the corner, she looks like a ghost.

Lighting designer Eric Hufford adds to the atmosphere with lighting tricks. A red light bathes the scene during Agnes’ hypnotherapy sessions, fading to blue as she re-enacts the fateful night. The stage is also blue between scenes when Dr. Livingstone speaks to the audience. Sound designer Robin Schwartz ensures that Agnès’ vocals come through clearly.

Jeff Sprague does a terrific job as a director. The actors navigate the stage and each other flawlessly, building suspense and keeping the audience engaged as secrets are revealed. Cameras changing back and forth for clear views ensure a great online viewing experience. Agnes of God is the most compelling drama, delivering scenes and performances that audiences will remember long after the end. Go see it but be warned: some mysteries might be better left unsolved.

Duration: Approximately 2 hours, including 15 minutes intermission.

Agnes of God is played through April 2, 2022 at Colonial Players of Annapolis – 108 East Street, Annapolis, MD. The show is also available for real-time live streaming. For tickets ($23), contact the box office at 410-268-7373 or visit Colonial Players in line.

COVID Safety: FAce masks must be worn properly by everyone at all Colonial Players facilities at all times, regardless of vaccination status.

The poster for Agnes of God is online here.

About Margaret Shaw

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