Milan Stitt Mel Gussow - Essay

Mel Gussow

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Milan Stitt's "The Runner Stumbles" is, simultaneously a love story about an impossible love, a psychological mystery and a reflective study of the strictures of religion…. [It] offers some sobering judgments on the relationships of men and women whose lives are devoted to God….

Mr. Stitt draws upon fact—an actual case in Michigan in 1911 when a priest was accused of murdering a nun—and filters it through his own imagination. This is no dusty court record, but a play about people who are entrapped by their own and one another's obsessions….

As the play begins, the priest is awaiting trial. The scene moves from cell to courtroom to mind and shadowy memory as we, and Father Rivard's insecure lawyer, try to piece together the truth.

That defense attorney and other minor characters are stock figures and their scenes, as well as some of the courtroom interrogation, have a stiff, unyielding quality….

Despite flaws, the play has a strong emotional impact. The writer avoids overstatement and melodrama. In this, his first play, Mr. Stitt has the restraint and sureness of an experienced dramatist.

Mel Gussow, "'The Runner Stumbles' Marked by Fine Acting," in The New York Times (copyright © 1976 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), May 19, 1976 (and reprinted in New York Theatre Critics' Reviews, Vol. 37, No. 13, June 7, 1976, p. 238).