The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title Agnes of God
Organization Stand Out Talent
Date(s) of show January 17 - February 2, 2014
Reviewer Dick Frantzreb
Review I fear that by the time you read this you will have missed an outstanding show. I saw Stand Out Talent's production of Agnes of God at the beginning of the last weekend of its run, and I only wish I had seen it opening night, so I could have spread the word of the quality of this production. That quality lies in the acting and direction because the set was spare, and there were no changes in costume, no special effects (well, almost none), minimal lighting effects – not much of what you might call stagecraft. But to my mind, that only enhanced the effectiveness of the drama that unfolded. It is the story – based on real events – of a young nun discovered with a dead newborn in her room, leading to questions of how she got pregnant, how the baby died, and who was at fault. There are only three characters in this play (unlike the movie of the same title): the young nun, the Mother Superior, and a psychiatrist trying to discover the facts of the case and evaluate the sanity of the nun.

The script itself is a work of art, uncovering bits of the mystery layer by layer, all the while adding more mystery in the nuances of the plot, as the playwright explores issues of religion, insanity, culpability, familial relations, and the nature of miracles. As I watched, it was increasingly clear why this play garnered various award nominations (and a Tony Award for one of the actors) when it was introduced in 1982.

But what really kept me engaged, even fascinated, for two hours was the quality of the acting. I had not seen these women before – Natasha Burr, Susan Andrews, and Jessica Neufeld – perhaps because this is apparently the first time they have performed locally. From their bios in the program, their very broad experience ranges from New York to Los Angeles, and many places in between. To my mind, they were perfectly cast for this show, and their performances were impeccable – with what felt like flawless timing, delicious intensity, and great emotional range. In other words, I quickly stopped seeing them as actors on a stage and instead saw people experiencing real emotions as a real story unfolded. And of course, much of the credit for what I saw and felt is attributable to the directing of Jason Bortz. I’ve seen many of the productions he has directed, and if you haven’t, you’re missing a rising talent in our area. All those involved have put together a production that truly does justice to this award-winning drama.

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