The Barn Summer Playhouse's production is John Patrick Shanley's Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, "Doubt". Directed beautifully by Peter Wright, the show takes place in the Bronx at St. Nicholas School in 1964 and only has 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? 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 sumpathetic 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. 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 path they take to reach their goals becomes clear. Blessed with a terrific cast, Peter Wright brings out not only the dramatic moments but the comic ones, too and blocks his cast like a chess match to keep the tension mounting in each scene. His talented cast is rewarded with a thunderous ovation at the end.
The show is presented in one act and the hundred minutes fly by very quickly with the intensity and wit of this topnotch cast. The unit set of office, pulpit and garden is by Kelly Ann Cabral. Sharon Coleman makes Sister Aloysius into a giantess with her acting prowess, making this nun more than one-dimensional. With the character's dry as dust wit, Sharon mines the layers of her intractable character for the core of humanity that makes her accessible especially in the last scene when she shows the softer side of this nun. Jeff DeSisto is marvelous as Father Flynn. He tackles this role of exuberant young priest with gusto. Jeff shows his acting chops for drama with impressive sermons on doubt which opens the show and on intolerance after his first confrontation with Sister Aloysius. Jeff gives the priest a humanity that reaches across the footlights to enthrall the audience and his confrontation scenes with Sharon and Alex are electrifying. The third performer is Alex Maynard as 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 power of the play and her standing up to the older nun in the tea scene is terrific. While it essentially revolves around these three people, the fourth character, the mother, is excellently played by Carolyn Tidwell. She mentions to Sister that Donald might have been mentored more intimately than he should be not only here but possibly elsewhere, adds to the scope of the play. Carolyn is fantastic in the confrontation with Aloysius scene.So for an intelligent script that is not only thought provoking but accessible to all audiences, be sure to catch "Doubt" at Roger Williams University, Barn Summer Theatre. Tell them Tony sent you.