Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Doubt: A Parable
Studio Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule (updated)

Also see Susan's review of 1 Henry IV


Christian Conn and Sarah Marshall
Photo by Teresa Wood
When John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Doubt: A Parable premiered in 2004, the general response focused on the surface story of an authoritarian nun and her suspicions about the behavior of a younger, less dogmatic priest. Almost 15 years later, the production of the play at Washington's Studio Theatre concentrates less on the specifics of the plot and more broadly on the theme: certainty can be a trap and doubt can provide a window into new perspectives.

Director Matt Torney ably depicts the conflict between two competing belief systems as personified by a nun and a priest of different generations. Sister Aloysius (a fierce Sarah Marshall) is the principal of a Catholic elementary school in the Bronx in 1964 and a traditionalist. She believes she knows best about everything and that children must learn to submit to authority. Father Brendan Flynn (Christian Conn) is a rough-edged priest, inspired by the reforms undertaken by the Second Vatican Council. Sister Aloysius doesn't trust Father Flynn's more informal ways of doing things, while he comes from a social hierarchy where any nun is subservient to any priest. (When she invites him to a meeting in her office, he takes her chair without a second thought.)

The crux of the story is Father Flynn's friendship with the (unseen) first African-American student in the school. Sister Aloysius has seen clerical predation in the past and, based on second-hand reports, sets out to prove the priest's guilt. (Shanley is scrupulously balanced in his treatment of these characters; he wants the audience to experience the same uncertainty as they do.)

Marshall has appeared at Studio more than any other performer in its history; while in her career she sometimes goes for the flamboyant and enjoyably excessive, here she gives a riveting performance as a woman sustained by the knowledge that whatever she does is in the cause of righteousness. Conn has an easy confidence as a priest who sees himself making the church less a place of fear and awe and more a space that provides comfort.

Tiffany M. Thompson gives a forceful performance as the mother of the boy in question, who brings yet another perspective to the drama, and Amelia Pedlow is affecting as a young nun whose love of teaching runs up against Sister Aloysius' emphasis on unyielding discipline.

Studio Theatre
Doubt: A Parable
September 4th - October 6th, 2019
In the Metheny Theatre
By John Patrick Shanley
Father Brendan Flynn: Christian Conn
Sister Aloysius Beauvier: Sarah Marshall
Sister James: Amelia Pedlow
Mrs. Muller: Tiffany M. Thompson
Directed by Matt Torney
Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-332-3300 or www.studiotheatre.org


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