Saturday, 1 March 2014

playbill or agnes dei

Recently, I had the chance to see the local community theatre produce an excellent performance of John Pielmeyer's play Agnes of God. I recall there was a 1985 cinematic adaptation of the piece starring Jane Fonda as court-appointed psychiatrist, Dr. Martha Livingston, and was rather controversial movie, the play itself a dramatization of an actual tragic case.

I did not realize how challenging the original stagecraft was, however, the character of the psychiatrist interacting with just two other players with an almost unhalting monologue and dialogue that lasts for the entire performance. As the fourth wall, I was a little discouraged that there were only three people in the audience to witness the spectacle, though the actors and crew did not stint the small house any of the effort. Dr. Livingston has many memorable reflections, but I think the one of the most profound and foreshadowing moments came with her opening soliloquy when she remembers returning to the cinema time and time again to see one of her favourite stars play out a doomed life, hoping against hope that during one showing she'd be sitting in the darkened rows and all of a sudden and without warning, the projectionist had discovered that long lost “alternate reel,” the one with the happy end. The psychiatrist, despite and because of what she was about to face at the nunnery, still believed in alternate reels.