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A question of faith raised in ‘Agnes Of God’

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One of Repertory Philippines’ 50th anniversary offering “Agnes Of God” will surely get audiences hooked with its intriguing thesis dissecting faith and human morality.

Becca Coates as Agnes (mb.com.ph)

Becca Coates as Agnes

The story features three women as leads: There is Sister Agnes played by 19-year-old Becca Coates, a novice nun; Dr. Martha Livingstone, an atheist appointed by the court as psychiatrist of Agnes, portrayed by veteran actress Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo; and Mother Miriam Ruth, played by Pinky Amador who will do everything to protect the church from shame.

Written by American playwright John Pielmeier in 1982, the story starts with Agnes being accused of murdering her newborn baby. But was it really her baby found dead in a wastebasket? Dr. Martha is tasked to know the real story except that she too has her own issues to deal with.

The performances of the three actresses were impressive.

Becca is perfect as Agnes given her sweet, naive looks. She was able to hold her own despite having to throw lines with some of local theaters’ more respected veterans.

Becca and Pinky were attentive to the smallest details, including how they would curtsy or sit while wearing their habits.

Menchu, gave a lot to her performance, even going on to smoke, something she never does in real life.

The set design by Joey Mendoza was effective in its stark simplicity: a nondescript wooden table adorned with nothing else but a cigarette pack and an ashtray; and two chairs on both ends – that’s it.

Audiences can’t help but focus on the intensity of the scenes and how the characters would fight and argue throughout.

Light director John Batalla’s work was also admirable as it served to highlight each character’s emotion, even adding tension to the more dramatic scenes. It probably helped that 80 percent of the lighting was done old-school, meaning they’re mostly non-digital.

The costumes were right to the point, too. Every detail, even the cigarette, has significance (Agnes’ mother used to burn her daughter with her cigarettes). The religious symbolism though downplayed in this version, was made obvious simply through the rosary hanging on Agnes’ and Mother Miriam’s necks.

We will not spoil the ending (although we’re pretty sure some of you already know how it ends either through watching other staging of the play or the film released in the ’80s) but suffice it to say, this version nailed it in more ways than one.

“Agnes Of God” runs till March 12 every Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday, 3:30 p.m. at Onstage Theater of Greenbelt 1, Makati.

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