Faith vs. science 

It’s not a plot line for the weak of heart. Agnes of God tells the story of a novice nun who gives birth to a baby who is later found murdered. Written by John Pielmeier, the drama was based on an actual case that occurred in a Brighton, N.Y. convent.
In the play, Sister Agnes is both young and ignorant. When she insists her child was the result of a virgin conception, controversy ensues. The Mother Superior wants desperately to believe Sister Agnes, who sings like an angel. The court-appointed psychiatrist who is called in to investigate has left the church and has no room in her life for faith.
In the play, Sister Agnes is accused of murdering her newborn baby. The psychiatrist must determine if she is sane or insane.
To do this, the psychiatrist must deal not only with Sister Agnes, but with her Mother Superior. Ultimately, the play deals with the issue of Faith vs. Science.
The play will be presented by the Savannah Actor’s Theatre. It is being directed by David I. L. Poole.
“This is the second time I’ve directed it,” Poole says. “I did it seven years ago in New York.
“It’s a very interesting show,” he says. “My spin on it is different from everyone else.”
Poole, an Asian American, has given the production a decided Asian aspect. He has been training the actors in the Suzuki method of acting, first used at the SITI Company in New York City by Anne Bogart and Tadashi Suzuki. It incorporates a movement technique and deals with spatial relationships.
The costume designs also invoke Asia. For example, the nuns wear habits and are obviously traditional nuns, but their habits somewhat resemble kimonos.
The play features a cast of three -- Jennipher Murphy Whitcomb as the psychiatrist, Dr. Martha Livingston; Dandy Barrett as the Mother Superior; and Emily House as Sister Agnes.
“I love this play,” Poole says. “It concerns the relationship between three women who are very interesting to me. These women are in three different stages of life -- the maid, the mother and the crone.”
The last production of Agnes of God that Poole directed was very different, he says. “This one I’m much happier with,” he says. “I was able to explore.”
The original production took place in Dr. Livingston’s office. “Our production takes it more outdoors,” Poole says. “Dr. Livingston deals with the nuns on their own turf.”
Poole believes the play actually belongs to Dr. Livingston. “It’s about her dealing and coping and bringing meaning to life,” he says. “She left the church after her sister’s death. Everyone is constantly trying to hide secrets, but no matter they do, they constantly bubble to the surface.”
A Master of Fine Arts degree candidate at the Savannah College of Art and Design, Poole became interested in the Savannah Actor’s Theatre after seeing a production of Beau Jest last September. “I was told by my professors that I should become involved here because everyone at SAT is of the same mind-set,” he says.
“It’s a very unusual production, something people have never seen before,” Poole says. “It does have something new and different to it. I would tell people to expect the unexpected.” 
Agnes of God will be presented April 12, 13, 14, 19, 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. at The Ark Theatre, 703 Louisville Rd. in Suite D. Tickets are $10. For information, call the Savannah Actor’s Theatre at 232-6080.

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Linda Sickler

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