GORE BAY—Two sold out performances of the Gore Bay Theatre’s production of John Pielmeier’s ‘Agnes of God’ took place this weekend and in both instances the audience was treated to riveting performances by three of the Island’s top actresses, two longtime veterans of the stage and one newcomer.
The play itself is a powerful and thought provoking work, but it can be a difficult translation unless the actors and direction are of a high caliber. In this instance, both more than made the grade.
Played on a skeletal stage, whose setting is “a metaphor for the skeletons we hide within our homes and within ourselves,” as the program put it, the actors’ performances must capture the audience’s credulity largely bereft of the benefit of props (aside from the subtle role played by the (non-toxic) cigarettes puffed by Tara Bernatchez’s Dr. Martha Livingston).
Ms. Bernatchez, a multi-award winning actress whose work is very familiar to the Island theatre going crowd, brought just the right mix of righteous secularism and the naive innocence we most of us still nurture in our deepest subconscious.
Spoiler alert! This isn’t a happy ending kind of story—a fact clearly foreshadowed in Ms. Berntachez’s opening scene.
The redoubtable Shannon McMullan rocked her mother superior costume along with her role as Mother Miriam Ruth (“you can call me sister”). Small wonder, considering Ms. McMullan’s range of experience before the footlights, both with the Gore Bay Theatre and during her sojourn in more southerly climes, but her performance as a modern religious zealot played in perfect counterpoint to Ms. Bernatchez’s secular atheism.
Kayla Greenman, who played the title role of Agnes, projected the absolute epitome of innocence in her role as a sheltered young woman. In this day and age of social media jade, in suspending audience credulity so completely, her performance was simply a tour de force. For a 15-year-old Island girl with no Catholic history, we must give vocal coach Alex Baran strong kudos for the Latin songs which Ms. Greenman delivered with such amazing grace.
The 90-minute run of the play took place without intermission, but it is no exaggeration to say that the power of this production prevented the audience from noticing the passage of time.
Directors Andea Emmerton and Walter Maskel have brought forth performances that will delight and amaze audiences both here and at this year’s QUONTA competition (break a leg), where Agnes of God will be the Gore Bay Theatre’s entry into the seminal Northern Ontario theatre showcase.