THE RUNNER STUMBLES (2012) Send This Review to a Friend
It’s partly heavy going in this revival of Milan Stitt’s 1976 play “The Runner Stumbles,” based on a true story that took place in Michigan in 1911 involving a disappeared nun and a murder charge against a priest who insisted he was innocent. At the core is the tension that builds between a priest and a nun who are desperately trying to suppress sexual urges in conformity with church doctrine. But such unnatural bottling up of human physical needs results in conflicts between their desires and their faith resulting in raging eruptions of anger.
The production, directed by Peter Zinn, drags in some places but it explodes at its best in the critical confrontational scenes between Father Rivard (Christopher Patrick Mullen) and Sister Rita (Casandera M. J. Lollar), who as a result of illness among other nuns has had to move into the rectory where he stays. The play flits back and forth with suspense between the situation that results and the courtroom where Father Rivard is being tried for Sister Rita’s murder.
Mullen is impressive attempting to control emotions and chastising Sister Rita for arousing sexual thoughts in him. Lollar is excellent in conveying Sister Rita’s temptations and rebelliousness. She is not one to obey commands easily.
As I wrote about an earlier revival by The Actors Theatre Company (TACT), the heterosexual conflicts differ from the homosexual abuses by priests that have recently been under the microscope. TACT’S was a stronger production, but still, this one effectively raises the issue of church dogma versus human inclinations and needs. At the Arclight Theatre, 152 West 71st Street, $37, $30 for seniors, $20 for student rush tickets at box office based on availability. Phone: 212-352-3101.