My mother-in-law is a classy New Yorker, but I still worried a little when she treated my family to the off-Broadway opening of John Patrick Shanley's Doubt, a play about an unyielding nun who questions the relationship between a progressive parish priest and the school's first black student. Is a play about a possibly pedophile priest appropriate for a family with a young teen?
Did I feel ridiculous after the curtain closed on a gripping drama set in the Bronx that asks moral questions (what is right?), relives American history (the unrest of the 1960s), and makes people think (Father Flynn: guilty or not?). The play, starring Tennessee's own Cherry Jones as Sister Aloysius, moved to Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre within months, earning two Obie Awards, four Tonys, and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2005.
Doubt makes its regional debut on September 28th at Playhouse on the Square. The play stars local actors Ann Marie Hall as Sister Aloysius and Michael Gravois as Father Flynn, the affable priest trying to soften the strictures of Catholicism in 1964 with an accessible clerical style. Or is he more dangerous?
There are no clear-cut answers in Shanley's play, rather a finely layered framework for considering faith, relationships, and human behavior.
"Audiences always leave Doubt with divided opinions about Father Flynn," Hall says, crediting the playwright's language and complex characters for the play's thoughtful ambiguity.
"At first, it's easy to discard Sister Aloysius as rigid, but she's not that way at all," Hall says. "She's a woman caught in a situation who is working very hard to make the right decision, and this gives her character many different dimensions."
"Doubt," Playhouse on the Square, 51 S. Cooper, September 28th-October 21st. Call 726-4656 for reservations.