One of the great common laws of this country is that a person is innocent until a jury of their peers finds that the preponderance of evidence proves them guilty or not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
“Doubt, A Parable,” by John Patrick Shanley, the current production at the Lakewood Playhouse, delves into the question of what occurs when the suspect has no chance to defend himself because he is never officially accused.
During the 1980’s in the United States, the close guarded secret sin of some members of the Catholic priesthood burst into the dismal light of reality both within the Holy See and the public.
Doubts ran rampant among priests, parents and parishes as to the celibacy and possible deviant behavior of some of the dearly beloved parish priests.
Many were true to their vows and vocation; others were found out and quietly transferred to different parishes or allowed to resign their cloth and drift into oblivion.
Shanley tells the story of one such priest who is doubted by the principal of the parochial school where Father Brendan Flynn takes office.
Father Flynn is a caring young priest who takes special interest in his charges whether in the sanctuary, classroom or basketball court.
Sister Aloysius Beauvier is a strict disciplinarian who forces her beliefs in God through will power doused with abstinence and a solid dose of strict adherence to her law, church rule and obedience; no love or caring is within her.
Sister James is a young novice who gleefully teaches and loves the students as much as she does her work. Her exuberance in her vocation is distasteful to her superior Sister Aloysuis, who continues to prod the young nun for her opinion about Father Flynn urging her to spy upon the jovial priest and probe any questionable activities she may discover.
Mrs. Muller is the final member of the small cast; she is the mother of a teen-aged boy student who, un-liked by his father for a hidden reason, finds solace in Father Flynn.
“Doubt” is directed by Victoria Webb with loving understanding. Webb’s cast is tight and deserving of the tasks placed upon them to keep the audience guessing the right answer to the conundrum. Webb has shown the cast the way and they follow admirably.
This episodic drama is comprised of several complete scenes which build the story to gentle climaxes each leaving the audience in doubt of “Did he or didn’t he?”
All are played out on a very workable set designed by Erin Manza Chanfrau, which shows the upstage left pulpit, in front of which is Sister’s office; upstage right is a garden scene – stained-glass windows overlook the set from the upstage wall.
Diane Runkel does the costumes, including the Sisters of Charity habits and Father’s cassock. Aaron Mohs-Hale does lights; James Venturini brings reality with sound including Gregorian chants in the pre-show music; and Ana Bury is Stage Manager.
Diane Jackson plays Mrs. Muller with love for her son and humiliation of the knowledge of her husband’s lack of feelings for him due to the boy’s life choices. Jackson meets with Sister Aloysius with embarrassment, which turns to an outburst of vehemence of a lioness protecting her cub; very nicely played.
Kait Mahoney is Sister James. Mahoney is almost giddy with excitement about her chosen profession and students. Speaking with her superior, the novitiate expresses the joie de vivre she experiences with her charges. Unfortunately, the principal is so negative, the audience can see the exuberance melt from Mahoney’s character as she reluctantly falls in line with the older nun and agrees to be watchful of Father Flynn.
Connie Murray plays Sister Aloysius Beauvier as the dreaded Mother Superior principal remembered by many attendees at parochial schools. Murray’s character is foreboding and unreachable. Her body movements are perfect as are her sternness and self-imposed self-punishment of doubt in everything – sometimes even herself – which she would never admit. Murray gives the audience a person of small importance determined to increase her worth and refusing to be anything except right, even when doing so breaks God’s law.
Blake R. York gives the audience an intelligent Father Brendan Flynn, which is obvious from his sermons. He is loving and caring of his charges, as shown when he speaks with the distaff side of his profession. York is steadfast in his innocence of any wrong-doing, which he demonstrates by usurping the principal’s physical position when speaking with her in her office. He impresses upon her that she is breaking with “chain of command” and has no right to censure him – until he is pushed against the wall of doubt. York has developed a strikingly strong character which leaves the audience unable to be certain of the veracity of his statements compared to Sister Aloysius.
“Doubt, A Parable” continues at The Lakewood Playhouse in the northeast section of the Lakewood Towne Center, just behind the Pierce Transit Bus Depot through March 12, each Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. There is a special Pay-What-You-Can, Actor’s Benefit performance, Thursday March 3 at 8 p.m.
For more information or reservations, call the box office at (253) 588-0042 or go online to www.lakewoodplayhouse.org.
Frank R. Stockton wrote a tale, “The Lady or the Tiger?” in 1882. The serf hero had dared to love a princess and as punishment, he had to choose between two doors. Behind one waited an unknown lady with whom he would be able to live his life in contentment; behind the other was a wild tiger which would tear him limb from limb. His true love found what was behind each door and told him which door to open – as he confidently approaches the door she has told him to, the story ends leaving the reader to make the decision of which door the princess told him to take – life with another woman or death.
“Doubt” leaves the audience with the same dilemma. Which character speaks the truth? This strong drama will be fuel for fodder amongst theatre-goers for some time. The actors in the Lakewood Playhouse production are all so believable, none can be doubted – or can they? It’s up to you – you may have to see “Doubt” more than once to decide.