TheatreWorks leaves no 'Doubt' about it...the show's a hit
It's not surprising that John Patrick Shanley's drama "Doubt" won the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize. It's a great play. What makes it so outstanding is that important universal themes are woven throughout the play. "Doubt" deals with issues from religion, to race, to sexism.
You couldn't ask for a more timely play, since political ethics and moral fiber are constantly in the news these days.
You have a classic power struggle here. A nun has suspicions about a young priest who has arrived at her school. She thinks he may have interfered with the only black boy in the school. Because of the patriarchal hierarchy of the church, she knows she has no recourse but to take the matter into her own hands.
Laced with tension, the play provokes the audience by asking, "Are her suspicions real or fabricated?"
Considering how many priests have been accused of being pedophiles in recent years, and considering how carefully and cleverly the playwright cloaks his characters' motivations, one leaves the theater knowing that "Doubt" has been aptly named.
Noel Desiato plays the sharp-tongued, rigid Sister Aloysius Beauvier. The nun is mean and Desiato plays her as a determined, rigid principal of the school. Desiato is a commanding actress who slips into the skin of her characters. Her delivery is so forceful that not only do the other actors on stage respond to her sharp-edged performance, but the audience responds as well. We don't like Sister Beauvier, but she does make valid points – or does she?
J. Scott Williams carries his own weight as Father Brendan Flynn, the bane of Sister Aloysius. The casting is a solid match as Williams transforms into a male chauvinist in robed splendor who takes on the old head nun. Delivering power-packed sermons, Williams had audience members making the sign of the cross whenever he did. That's how convincing he was.
Of course, Father Flynn does seek the support of young Sister James, who is too new and gullible for her own good. Played by Jessica Lea Alex with empathy and charm, she makes the audience care about Sister James.
Also contributing a solid performance is Stephanie Jackson as Mrs. Muller, the black boy's mother. Jackson plays a mother who will do anything to protect her child. She's a natural. It's an excellent production. Alicia P. Dempster has done an outstanding job directing this multi-talented cast. She also has one heck of a set for this production.
The only problem with the production is that switching from one set to another is quite a noisy affair and just about lifts you right out of the play to watch the set change. Nonetheless, the show is terrific and it has been packing the house.