Theatre Factory looks at faith, failings with 'Agnes of God'

| Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010

Three local actresses tackle three demanding roles in "Agnes of God," Theatre Factory's production of the powerful Broadway play, which was later turned into a movie.

Laura Wurzell of Delmont is the psychiatrist, Linda Stayer of Murrysville is Mother Superior and Deborah Bender of Pitcairn is Sister Agnes in the 1982 John Pielmeier drama. Professional productions have featured some heavy-hitters in the three-member cast, especially the 1985 movie version that starred Jane Fonda, Anne Bancroft and Meg Tilly.

Ron Ferrara of Vandergrift directs the Theatre Factory production and says that Wurzell, Stayer and Bender have approached each rehearsal "as a collective experience."

"These rehearsals have been both physically and emotionally exhausting. They work extremely well together and use their individual talents to truly become the characters they are playing," he says.

Wurzell says that she has developed friendships with Stayer and Bender as a result of the play, and "we feel very comfortable with each other. We spend as much time as possible talking about our characters."

The plot revolves around Sister Agnes, a young nun who is accused of murdering her newborn baby that she insists was the result of a virgin conception. A psychiatrist and the convent's Mother Superior are involved in the investigation. The drama is widely believed to be based on an actual incident that occurred in a convent in Brighton, N.Y.

Ferrara says the issues raised by the drama are as relevant today as when the play was written.

"The possibility of a miracle, the eternal conflict between faith and science, the debate over religion's place in society, and any discussion of sex and a murder pique our interest and therefore remain relevant," he says.

"Agnes of God" explores the classic conflict between science and faith "by examining all the gray areas in between," Stayer says. "It will challenge you and make you think. The intelligent, sharply constructed dialogue will hopefully keep the audience thoroughly engaged in these characters as they progress toward the inevitable outcome."

Bender says she recommends the drama to theatergoers because it is not a typical play. "It is very deep on many levels. You will be truly touched in one way or another when you leave this show," she says.

Additional Information:

'Agnes of God'

When: Friday-Nov. 14 at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Nov. 7 and 14

Where: Theatre Factory, Cavitt Ave. & Third St., Trafford

Admission: $16; $14 for seniors; all seats $13 on 'Thirteen Thursday'

Details: 412-374-9200 or website

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