November 2011
THE RUNNER STUMBLES
by Milan Stitt
Directed by Peter Zinn
The Richmond Shepard Theatre
309 East 26th Street, New York City

Set Desigersn:  Jack and Rebecca Cunningham
Costume Designer:  Kathryn Rohe
Lighting Desigern:   Jacqueline Reid
Sound Designer:  Jeanne Travis
Property Designer:  Heather E. Cunningham
Special Effects Desigern and Fight Choreographer:   Joe Mathers
Stage Manager:  Jeanne Travis*
Press Representative:  Lanie Zipoy
Photographer:  Kristen Vaughan

Featuring: Jim Boerlin*, Becky Byers, Nat Cassidy*, Heather E. Cunningham,
Casandera M.J. Lollar, Joe Mathers, Christopher Patrick Mullen*,
Alisha Spielmann and Ric Sechrest*.


*Appearing courtesy of Actors' Equity Association.


"[The Runner Stumbles] is a smacking good play. Or rather, three smacking good plays: a courtroom drama, a whodunit, and a treatise on the acceptance and rejection of faith and why God has put us here...  Credit Peter Zinn's lucid, subtle direction, and some splendid performances...  Mullen, in a juicy role that must be awfully tempting to ham, plays Rivard naturally and low-key until his façade cracks: Mullen has Rivard's emotions wash slowly over his face, allowing us to share and despair over the crumbling of his beliefs and the unraveling of his universe. Lollar, whose Sister Rita declares early on, "I had to be a child then to be a nun now," delicately shows us both: the eagerness and openness of the girl becoming a woman and the questioning and thoughtful contemplation of her role as a nun...Becky Byers' calculating, flirty Catholic-school student; Ric Sechrest's methodical lawyer; and Alisha Spielmann's mistreated, terrified-of-loneliness housewife all have wonderful moments...  A play this good has no business being forgotten, and this Retro Productions effort does more than honorably by it." - Marc Miller, Back Stage East - CRITIC'S PICK!  

"Whenever I hear that Retro Productions is doing a show, I immediately make a reservation. I love this ambitious company that brings back forgotten plays. This month’s treat was The Runner Stumbles, Milan Stitt’s 1976 quasi-hit about a nun and a priest, and how the raging tide they held inside could hold no more. But did he then kill her? I’ll admit I figured out whodunnit in short order, but everything else about Peter Zinn’s production was surprising, refreshing and winning. Playing the doomed nun was Casandera M.J. Lollar. She may have a cumbersome name, but she showed an effortless way with a line and delivered one of the strongest performances of 2011." - Peter Filichia, Filichia on Friday

"Mullen is pitch perfect as the young priest who tends to question authority and think outside the box (a notion that’s not appreciated at all in the early 1900’s Catholic Church). His portrayal of the young priest is moving and striking, and the yearning inside of him is subtle but very real. The same can be said for Lollar’s portrayal of Sister Rita. Her tender personality shines in the character, and her performance ranges from compassionate and tender to heartbreakingly sad. It’s quite a feat to take on roles like this, and they both do it with gusto and ease. Peter Zinn’s direction is sharp and fluid and the rest of the cast all have great moments, including Heather Cunningham’s soft spoken take on Mrs. Shandig, Nat Cassidy’s sleezy Prosecutor, and quite comic touches by Ric Seachrest as the Defense. " - Mateo Moreno, Big Vision Empty Wallet

"Alisha Spielman as town Catholic Erna Prindle and Joe Mathers as town Sheriff Amos are able to set the tone of the town immediately as the town prepares for the trial of Father Rivard. Ric Sechrest as Toby Felker and Nat Cassidy as Prosecutor are impassioned as the attorneys and present a dramatic court room affair. Becky Byers as Louise makes a compelling witness for the prosecution, but her motives are questioned by the defense. Byers pulls of the precocious young woman with grace even as her reputation is slandered. Erna Prindle also makes it to the witness stand and into the story scenes where Spielman makes the character so one’s heart cannot help but break for this poor woman with little options. Cunningham presents Shandig with an innocence I found refreshing in spite of her characters fundamentalism. Jim Boerlin is perfectly cast as Monsignior Nicholson, Father Rivard’s superior and strict upholder of church rules, dogma and propriety... the production is definitely worth seeing. The acting is superb and the twist is surprising." - Carissa Cordes, New York Theatre Review

NOMINATED FOR ONE NEW YORK INNOVATIVE THEATRE AWARD:  Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role - Cassandera M.J. Lollar

May 2012 (Off-Broadway Extension)
THE RUNNER STUMBLES by Milan Stitt
Directed by Peter Zinn
Co-Produced with The Bleecker Company
In association with The Arclight Theatre
151 West 71st Street, New York City

Set Designer:  Jack and Rebecca Cunningham
Costume Designers:  Rebecca Cunningham, Viviane Galloway and Kathryn Rohe
Lighting Designer:   Jacqueline Reid
Sound Designer:  Jeanne Travis
Property Designer:  Heather E. Cunningham
Special Effects Designer and Fight Choreographer:  Joe Mathers
Stage Manager:  Ricardo Rust
Press Representative:  Shirley Herz Associates

Photographer:  Matilda Szydagis

Featuring: Becky Byers, Nat Cassidy, Heather E. Cunningham,
Casandera M.J. Lollar, Joe Mathers, Christopher Patrick Mullen,
Alisha Spielmann, Ric Sechrest and Richard Waddingham.



"quite an absorbing show... There is real excitement ... feverish with sexual tension and repressed anger ... [The Runner Stumbles is] a shrewd mystery with a surprising amount of humor.  Mr. Mullen is a first-rate actor, alternating between gentle and odious. He uses slight gestures — the handling of a book, a glance into the dark — to great effect. Ms. Lollar is also a multifaceted and forceful presence... these two leads are exceptional." - Ken Jaworowski, The New York Times

"Sometimes it feels that the same handful of plays, however great, get revived ad nauseam. For that reason and many others, Retro Productions' new mounting of Milan Stitt's drama, The Runner Stumbles, now at ArcLight Theatre, is a welcome addition to the current theatrical landscape.  Part courtroom drama and part forbidden love story, the play is a searing indictment on the dogma of organized religion, but never criticizes or questions the existence of God. It's a bit of a whodunit without being a slave to plot points. Stitt writes with an expansive nuance that lets us wrestle with the meaning rather than having it spoon-fed. ... Director Peter Zinn artfully navigates the time shifts, framing each one distinctively on stage.  Jack and Rebecca Cunningham's artful yet utilitarian wooden set, anchored by a giant crucifixion that hangs eerily above the stage, reflects both the early 1900's puritanical period and the small town in Michigan where Stitt's story (and the real-life murder it was inspired by) is set... ominiously lit by lighting designer Jacqueline Reid.  Mullen and Lollar both give charged performances woven with intricate subtleties. Mullen punctuates Rivard's gentle nature with outbursts at Lollar that cause audible gasps from the audience. His sexual and violent impulses become so intertwined that they're hard to distinguish." - Chris Kompanek, theatremania.com

"Solidly entertaining... The writing is so good, and Mullen is so present and real, so mercurial yet subtle, that even Rivard's worst behavior is comprehensible. And while Rivard's trial examines whether he is guilty of murder, the play examines whether he is guilty of hypocrisy, rigidity, and an inability to love...  The cast is strong (standouts include Heather E. Cunningham as Rivard's housekeeper, Ric Sechrest as the lawyer who defends Rivard, and Alisha Spielmann as the woman whose mother is dying), the story is compelling, and the show is well worth seeing." - Wendy Caster, Show Showdown

"Heather E. Cunningham plays housekeeper Mrs. Shandig.  Mrs. Shandig is a convert to Catholicism who runs the Rectory and Convent.  As innocent as Sister Rita is, she is well aware of men’s more base natures.  She tries to protect both Sister Rita and Father Rivard from their emotions.  Ms. Cunningham is excellent – as are the other supporting players.  The quality of this production is excellent, the payoff for the audience is great, The Runner Stumbles is a very good show." - Scott Mitchell, Reviews Off Broadway

"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." - Wolf Entertainment Guide