Barker (Charlie), left, Mykal Monroe (Elle), Hiram Delgado (Ronan) and Laura
Ramadei (June) [Photos: Carol Rosegg]
By Barry Bassis
Agnes, unlike the 1985 Broadway hit Agnes
of God, does not have a person named Agnes. Instead, Agnes is a hurricane
that is about to strike the area of New York City where the characters live and
the action takes place. A note from the director, Jenna Worsham, points out
that the work is intended to educate the audience about Asperger’s syndrome
(which is now called Autism Spectrum Disorder or “ASD”). It is a mild form of
autism characterized by repetitive actions and an inability to make contact
with others, though those with ASD can be highly intelligent.
Agnes avoids the pitfall of a “disease of
the week” drama, but by examining an array of peculiar characters, the drama
loses focus. Commendably, the production team and cast include some artists
with Asperger’s, though the director’s note doesn’t identify which ones.
beginning of the play, Charlie sits in his bedroom. He says “Subject Thirty
Seven: Durham North Carolina. ‘Lorraine.’”
A young woman
then mysteriously appears on the side of the stage and, with a Southern accent,
recounts intimate details about her life: having sex with a married man when
his wife and child suddenly appeared and she runs out naked. Lorraine
apparently hasn’t been following the news because gets caught in a hurricane.
Back in the
apartment, June arrives with shopping bags of paper towels, which she places on
a shelf and rearranges several times. Ah, Asperger’s, one would think.
Charlie is the one with the disorder and, when his sister June discovers that
he is in his bedroom, she is overjoyed and hugs him. He complains about her
barging into his bedroom and doesn’t like the physical contact. Charlie had
disappeared several weeks earlier and June feared the worst since his credit
card had been used across the country.
refuses to reveal what he did during the time he was away, other than go to the
aquarium and visit friends. June points out that he doesn’t have any. Then Elle
(June’s lesbian lover) comes in with more paper towels. She is followed by
Ronan, whose girlfriend (another member of the household) has just left him.
are about thirty years old, they live together in a dorm-like apartment.
There’s a bed on one side of the stage (which represents the three bedrooms)
and a couch on the opposite side. (The functional set is by Angelica Borrero.)
The only one who is a student is Elle, preparing to go to medical school in Philadelphia. She has signed a lease but June hasn’t made up her mind whether she will move
with her. Nevertheless, the two flirt a lot.
third roommate) makes a rambunctious entrance, with a kid’s rubber raft and
“off-brand fruit loops” as well as more bulk items. They have an odd way of
preparing for a hurricane.
that, on the internet, he discovered a friend from high school, Anna. Since she
lived in an evacuation zone, he invited her to stay in the apartment until the
storm was over. This turns out to be awkward because 15 years earlier, she had
been June’s best friend and lesbian lover. Anna is a free spirit, bisexual and
There is sex
in two of the three bedrooms but the couplings are not necessarily the ones you
would predict and none of it is graphic.
exclaims Ronan (Hiram Delgado), with Elle (Mykal Monroe), squished, and June
The action is
interrupted by more soliloquies, one from Subject Sixty-Four: Darla from
Alpine, Wyoming (again speaking of her sex life). Subject 30 from East Lansing, Michigan, Amy recounts an incident when she saw a mother abusing her
five-year son. The last is Subject 54: Jerry from Richmond, Virginia,
expressing wonder at the birth of his daughter.
By the end of
the play the author reveals what Charlie was doing during the two weeks he was
away and how the tapes of the “subjects” came about. Some members of the
audience were still confused about the plot and it takes a while to understand
the peculiar living arrangement.
Jenna Worsham gets outstanding performances from the cast. The physical scenes
(including a wrestling match) are very realistic. The overlapping dialogue
doesn’t make the events any clearer but that was the choice of the playwright
rather than the director.
Barker perfectly conveys the behavior of an Asperger’s sufferer. The other
actors show off their versatility by playing the roommates and the taped
subjects, all of whom have different regional accents.
is June, convincing as the strong-willed sister who is ambivalent about her
feelings toward Elle (well portrayed by Mykal Monroe, who is also East Lansing
Amy). Ramadei doubles as Darla from Wyoming. As Ronan, Edgar Delgado comes off
as more infantile than the author may have intended but is completely charming
as Jerry (who has an Indian accent). Claire Siebers exudes all the sex appeal
required to play the visiting Anna as well as North Carolina Lorraine.
line is that “Agnes” is informative and has a highly talented cast, though the
script needs more work.
Produced by Lesser America, in association with Hugh Hayes. At 59E59 Theaters, 59
East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues. Single tickets are $25
($20 for 59E59 Members). To purchase tickets, call Ticket Central at (212)
279-4200 or visit www.59e59.org. Running through
September 29. There is an added performance on Sunday, September 9 at 7:30 PM
and the matinee performance on Saturday, September 15 will start at 3 p.m.