Milan Stitt Catharine Hughes - Essay

Catharine Hughes

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The crux of [The Runner Stumbles] is not so much the inevitability of the priest and the nun falling in love, which it is clear will happen from the start despite his effort to resist it, but the conflict between formality and humanity. "The church is for rules," he didactically insists. "God is for people," she counters, at another moment asking, "Have you ever been human?" At still another point, one of them speculates: "Maybe God is only hope…. Nobody gets what he wants."

Obviously, there is nothing new or in the least theologically profound about this as religious dialogue, though it is a bit surprising to find it in a Broadway theatre these days—and perhaps a mistake to have put it there. The situation is striking in itself, as well as the death that results and the way that happens. For Sr. Rita, by the end, is passionately in love with the priest; she thinks they can have a life together. As she looks down upon the town, where there has just been a fire, she tells him: "We're not so different after all." But he feels, "I must be worthy…. I can't be a husband." He insists he hates not only God, but also her.

Does he kill her? You're not going to find out here. Despite its lapses into melodrama and some needless repetitiveness, you could do far worse than a visit to the Little Theatre to get the answer. (pp. 518-19)

Catharine Hughes, in a review of "The Runner Stumbles," in America (reprinted with permission of America Press, Inc.; © 1976; all rights reserved), Vol. 134, No. 23, June 12, 1976, pp. 518-19.