The Community Players' closing show of their 94th season is the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning drama "Doubt" by John Patrick Shanley. Beautifully directed by Eric Barbato, 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 during 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 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 he represents a danger to the eighth grade boys in the school that 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 roughshod over novice eighth grade teacher, Sister James. She sees hidden meanings behind every door. Her hair raising scenes with Father Flynn, Sister James and Mrs. Muller are incredible. The mother's contradictory beliefs about her son's sexual inclinations and the path she and the nun take to reach their goals becomes clear. Blessed with a marvelous cast, Eric brings out not only the dramatic moments but the comic ones, too. He 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 conclusion of the show.
This two act, hundred minute show flies by with the topnotch talent and wit of this cast. The unit set of office, pulpit and garden is by Brian Mulvey and Eric. Most impressive is the stained glass window. The lighting is well done by Dean Palmer. Mary Paolino makes Sister Aloysius into a giantess with her acting prowess, making this nun more than one dimensional. Mary mines the layers of her intractable character. This nun has dry as dust wit and with Mary's talent the core of her humanity, making her more accessible especially in the last scene when she displays her softer side to Sister James. She has many excellent scenes with the other three performers, delivering a tour-de-force performance in this role. Brava!
Joe Wilkicki is marvelous as Father Flynn. He tackles the role of this priest with gusto. Joe displays his acting chops in the impressive sermons on doubt which opens the show and later on intolerance after his first confrontation with Sister Aloysius. Joe gives the character the humanity that reaches across the footlights to enthrall the audience and his confrontation scenes with Mary and Aubrie are electrifying. The third performer is Aubrie Bagdasarian, a novice teaching nun. She trembles under the older woman's questions and then willingly agrees with her to find something sinister between the priest and the young boys. 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. When she stands up to the older nun in the tea scene is very impressive, too. While the show essentially revolves around these three characters, the fourth character, the mother of boy, is wonderfully played by Sonya Joyner. Mrs. Muller mentions to Sister that Donald might have been mentored more intimately than he should have been not only this time but intimates possibly there were previous times elsewhere. This revelation adds to the scope of the play. Sonya is topnotch in her confrontation scene with Sister Aloysius. So for an intelligent, well directed and acted script, that is thought provoking and accessible to all audiences, be sure to catch "Doubt" at Community Players. It was hard to believe the expertise of this cast, considering it was their final dress rehearsal. They are more than ready for any and all audiences. Tell them Tony sent you