Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Runner Stumbles

TACT's revival of Milan Stitt's 1976 play The Runner Stumbles has not aged well. It's no longer racy enough to tackle the real issues with the church (Doubt) or even to question the solitude of its priests (100 Saints You Should Know). The murder trial that frames this "illicit" affair between a nun and her priest is shakily conventional, and stilted, too, and the procession of ghost-like memories that haunt Father Rivard from his jail cell is far too orderly to shake things up. That's not all a terrible thing: Stitt's play is more suited toward contemplative soul searching, and his best moments are those that match Rivard's unstinting intellectualism against Sister Rita's practical interpretations of the Bible and Mrs. Shanding's deep-seated emotional beliefs. (No surprise, either, that these are the strongest actors of the bunch.) But proselytizing without passion can only go so far, and the reliance on rote and repetitive learning (we see the same scenes in the past that we hear confessed to in the present) never affords us the deep connection we see from theater.

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1 comment:

Frances Kiernan said...

I also saw this play last week, and agree with much of what you say regarding the writing. Flawed and awkward too much of the time. However I thought that all of the acting was strong, considering the material (seems a bit specious to say the people with the lead/most-critical parts were "the strongest actors"--the two young women were quite good in their smaller bits). I thought the set was terrific, metaphorically flexible.