A memorable ‘Agnes of God’ probes a nun’s secret at Colonial Players

The production — playing both in-person and live-streamed — combines excellent acting with creative lighting for a powerful, thought-provoking performance.

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

Ashleigh Bayer brings a childlike quality to Agnes. She answers many of Dr. Livingstone’s (Laura Gayvert) questions with “I don’t know.” She also gets upset and afraid quickly, trembling 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 floor, showing the awful details of what happened. She builds a portrait of a disturbed, forlorn young woman.

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

Laura Gayvert gives Dr. Livingstone a deeply skeptical, analytical sense. In between sessions with Agnes, she speaks to the audience, sharing her complicated history with the church and her own mother. Her rapport with Bayer is touching, as she slowly works her way to the issues, asking questions and building support. With Mother Miriam (Mary Macleod) she gets angry, asking probing questions and disbelief at her responses.

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

Set Designer Terry Averill has created a simple yet effective set, with a desk and two chairs in the middle of the stage. Nearby is a large, padded chair that swings down for a psychiatrist’s couch. Costume Designer Kaelynn Bedsworth’s outfits help to sum up each character’s personality. Dr. Livingstone looks professional in pants and a jacket, with sensible heels, while Mother Miriam appears severe in her nun’s habit. Agnes, wearing a plain white gown and wimple, looks both spiritual and disturbed; singing in the corner, she seems like a ghost.

Lighting Designer Eric Hufford adds to the atmosphere with lighting tricks. A red light bathes the stage during Agnes’s hypnotherapy sessions, shifting to blue as she re-enacts the fateful night. The stage is also blue in between scenes as Dr. Livingstone speaks to the audience. Sound Designer Robin Schwartz ensures that Agnes’s singing comes through clearly.

Jeff Sprague does a wonderful job as director. The actors navigate the stage and each other perfectly, building the suspense and keeping the audience engaged as secrets come to light. Cameras switching back and forth for clear views ensure a great online watching experience. Agnes of God is drama at its most compelling, giving scenes and performances that audiences will remember long after the ending. Go see it but be warned: some mysteries might be better off unsolved.

Running Time: Approximately 2 hours, including a 15-minute intermission.

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

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

The playbill for Agnes of God is online here.


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