by Kevin T McEneaney
John Patrick Shanley’s play Doubt: A Parable won five Tony Awards in 2005. The play begins with endearing humor about the Roman Catholic Church, then gradually veers into oblique critique via parable. The play demands consummate acting; this production by https://newdealarts.org/ at The Center for Performing Arts in Rhinebeck delivers quality performance from all actors and Director Thomas L. Webb. Tom Bunker was the polished Assistant Director as well as Stage Manager.
While the Antagonist priest Father Lynn, played with rhetorical aplomb (and later deep passion) by Kevin McCarthy opens the play with a humorous sermon, the nun Protagonist Sister Aloysius (whose name means famous warrior) is the fulcrum of the play in which several parables amplify layers of thought. Stephany Hitchcock’s performance as Sister Aloysius delivers a forceful mesmerizing certainty, which by the end of the play crumbles into the frailty of doubt.
We also witness the final education of young Sister James, played with such warm felicity by Cora Colwell; Shanley declared that it was the Colwell character that he himself most closely identifies with. Jontae Walters as Mrs. Miller delivers a parable on human dignity with captivating justice and empathy, which is at the heart of the play’s double climax; the second climax being the confrontation between Sister Aloysius and Father Flynn.
The central lie by Sister Aloysius in the play resembles the lie in Euripides’ Hippolyos.
While Flynn appears to be defeated, he conducts, against his will, a thorough reversal of fortune. This is a play that possesses great eloquent architecture with minimal props, as words propel the plot to its denouement. These words carry deep emotion and this is how and why these actors are so successful in turning fiction into a haunting reality. What begins in humor, ends in ambiguous tragedy for all characters. This production lives up to the play’s lauded reputation as a contemporary classic that revives the power of wisdom encoded in parable. And so the play concludes with dramatic doubt, as the audience is lead to a thrilling and poignant moral abyss of doubt, yet if one understands the parable arc one is redeemed with old-fashioned, cleansing catharsis.
Costume design by Donna Letteri provides Spartan panache.
The performance runs ninety minutes without an Intermission; the lack of an Intermission remains crucial to the psychology of the action.
Even if you have seen this play before, it is worth seeing again. Doubt: A Parable runs at the Center until March 5. For more information or to view short video clips of the performance visit the Center @ https://www.centerforperformingarts.org/