Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Doubt, A Parable"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2008 by Tony Annicone

"Doubt, A Parable"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The current production at Company Theatre is John Patrick Shanley's Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning drama "Doubt". Directed beautifully by Steve Dooner, the show takes place in the Bronx at St. Nicholas School in 1964 and has only four characters in it. The doubt versus certainty theme's broader significance is underscored by having the story unfold through the prism of the 1960's, a period marked by the Kennedy assassination trauma and the doubts it seeded about who killed the president and why; a period that also brought social change throughout the land and within the Catholic Church. The second Vatican Council had also taken place and the Latin Mass turned into English with the traditionalists opposing the more secular view of Catholicism. In "Doubt" we never see the victim, Donald Muller, the first African-American child to be admitted to the all-white school. There is only one suspect priest and though he might be guilty, it's not an open and shut, beyond a doubt case. In fact, Father Flynn is a more sympathetic character than Sister Aloysius, the righteous nun who is certain that he represents a danger to the boys in the eighth grade of the school she rules with an iron fist. This nun is a hands-on administrator who keeps a sharp eye on her teachers and students. Sister Aloysius first runs rough shod over Sister James, a young new teacher and while berating her, she mentions what could Father Flynn's sermon about doubt really mean. She sees hidden meanings behind every door. Her hair-raising scenes with Father Flynn, Sister James and Mrs. Muller are incredible and the mother's contradictory beliefs about her son's sexual inclinations and the separate paths they take to reach their goals becomes clear. (The principal wants to get rid of Father Flynn while the mother wants her son to peacefully go to school there until June.) "What do you do when you're not sure?" is uttered by Father Flynn in his first sermon. Whether spoken aloud or silently implied it is asked of everyone involved including the audience except for Sister Aloysius. A visit to the principal's office is never casual or fun. Father's first scene with the principal is under the pretext of discussing the Christmas pageant but when he mentions more secular songs be sung like "It's Beginning to be a lot like Christmas" and Sister James mentions "Frosty, the Snowman", Sister Aloysius mentions that the latter is a pagan song dealing with magic. She is a formidable woman who must never be crossed. Blessed with an excellent cast, Steve Dooner brings out not only the dramatic moments but the comic ones, too. With an incredible unit set by Zoe Bradford and Jordie Saucerman including the principal's office, a garden with flowers and a pathway as well as the outside of the rectory, this show is rewarded with a spontaneous standing ovation.

The show is presented in one act and the ninety minutes just fly by very quickly with the intensity and wit of this topnotch cast.Miki Joseph, a small woman in stature, makes Sister Aloysius into a giantess with her superb acting prowess. Having seen her as the bitchy, Parthy in "Showboat", she makes this nun more than one-dimensional. With the character's dry as dust wit, Miki mines the layers of her intractable character for the core of humanity that makes her accessible especially in the last scene of the show when she shows the softer side of herself with tears. Christian T. Potts is excellent as Father Flynn. Newly married in real life to the gorgeous blonde haired Katrina, he tackles this role of exuberant young priest with gusto. He usually appears in musicals but shows his acting chops for drama in this show with extremely impressive sermons on doubt which opens the show and after his first confrontation with Sister Aloysius on intolerance. Christian gives the priest a humanity that reaches across the footlights to enthrall the audience. The third performer in this show is Jennifer Duval White who usually plays strong willed and bossy characters but in this show is Sister James, a novice teaching nun. She trembles under the older woman's questions and then agrees willingly with her to find something sinister in the relationship between the boys and the young priest. Her youthful fervor is one of this ugly situation's casualties, yet the way she deals with her loss of innocence adds to the play's power. While it essentially revolves around these three people, the fourth character, the mother, wonderfully played by Christina Bynoe, mentions to Sister that Donald might have been mentored more intimately than he should be not only here but possibly elsewhere, adds to the play's scope. So for an intelligent script that is not only thought provoking but accessible to all audiences, be sure to catch "Doubt" at Company Theatre. Tell them Tony sent you.

"Doubt, A Parable" (10 - 26 October)
COMPANY THEATRE
Accord Park Drive, NORWELL MA
1 (781) 871-2787

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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