Also see John's review of My Fair Lady
A Bronx Catholic school in 1964 is the setting for the John Patrick Shanley play that won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Doubt: A Parable. The Caldwell Theatre opens their season with this thought-provoking play about doubt and suspicion. This parable deals with ethics and morality in the face of uncertainty: At what point does a doubt become a reasonable doubt; and how sure must we be to justify our actions? In the words of Kierkegaard: "Doubt is thought's despair; despair is personality's doubt ... Doubt and despair ... belong to completely different spheres, different sides of the soul are set in motion ... Despair is an expression of the total personality, doubt only of thought."
Sister Aloysius, the principal of a Catholic grade school, is not sure if a new priest at the school, Father Brendan Flynn, is acting appropriately with the children in her charge. She is faced with a Hobson's choice of speaking up without all the evidence, or keeping quiet while a child may be in jeopardy. There is her duty to God and the Church, and the possibility that speaking out against a priest may jeopardize her position at the school. Armed with only a secondhand piece of information from an inexperienced nun, Sister James, her gut instincts are pitted against apparent logic. This 90-minute play is done without intermission; the lack of an intermission strengthens the playwright's invitation for audience members to draw their own conclusions without the influence of the opinion of others.
Set design by Tim Bennett is good, save for the church stained-glass windows that look like they are from a high school production. There were also some mild set glitches on the night attended as the set did not get pushed together in the middle until several seconds after one of the scenes began.
Pat Nesbit is a driving force as Sister Aloysius. She plays the nun as a moral bull dog focused on her offending prey, Father Flynn. Terry Hardcastle is an able actor but never quite achieves complete believability as a priest. He does, however, aptly address Flynn's conflict with Sister Aloysius and the subject at hand. Much of the script is their verbal battle of wills. In considering the language of these debates, we should remember that there was not public discussion of inappropriate behavior between priests and children in 1964. Though it was after Vatican II, nuns did not commonly speak to issues so aggressively, as they were just emerging from a more passive role in the service of the Catholic church. With this in mind, it could have made for better theatre to have Sister Aloysius grow in her confidence and assertiveness throughout the conflict rather than having her be ferocious from the start.
Amy Montminy seems somewhat callow in her portrayal of the tentative Sister James. Perhaps in her attempt to make the character inexperienced, some of it comes off as the actress being inexperienced. Her facial expressions and intonations in her line deliveries sometimes simply don't match at all. It truly is unclear whether it is her or the character.
Pat Bowie is moving as Mrs. Muller, the mother of a student at the school. She adds a completely different take on the situation at hand, and serves as a reminder of what we may chose to endure in order to secure that which is dear to us.
Doubt: A Parable premiered at the Manhattan Theatre Club on November 23, 2004. The MTC production subsequently transferred to Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre on March 21, 2005. Doubt: A Parable received four Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize later that year. Playwright John Patrick Shanley received overnight recognition for his play Danny and the Deep Blue Sea in 1984. He received an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the film Moonstruck starring Cher and Olympia Dukakis. He is set to direct the upcoming film of Doubt for Miramax Studios starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Doubt: A Parable appeared December 2, 2007 - January 6, 2008 at the Caldwell Theatre. The Caldwell Theatre Company is a professional theatre company hiring local and non-local Equity and non-Equity actors. The Caldwell Theatre Company is designated by the State of Florida as a Cultural Institution and receives funding from the State of Florida through the Florida Department of State, the Florida Arts Council and the Division of Cultural Affairs. The Caldwell Theatre Company is located in the Count De Hoernle Theatre at 7901 N. Federal Highway in Boca Raton, FL.
*Indicates member of the Actor's Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
Image by Sig Vision