Port City Playhouse Doubt: a ParableBy McCall Doyle • Mar 29th, 2009 • Category: Reviews
Port City Playhouse
Lee Center for the Performing Arts, Alexandria, VA
$16/$14 Seniors and Juniors
Playing through April 11th
Reviewed March 27th, 2009
Doubt is easily one of our best modern plays…it is simple, elegant, and extremely thought-provoking. Port City Playhouse has made a fantastic choice in its selection.
With well chosen sacred music (Anna Hawkins), and an austere set (Frank Pasqualino) that fills the cavernous stage, anyone with a Catholic upbringing (myself included) is immediately catapulted back to that time and place.
The action centers around St. Nicholas Catholic Church in 1960s New York. An older, rigid nun feels that the new and charismatic priest might be up to no good with a young black boy at the school, and enlists the aid of a naïve young nun to get to the heart of the matter.
The play is not just about the pedophile scandal that rocked that Catholic Church in the earlier part of this decade. The play is not just about religion, race, or sexism. It explores the depth of human nature, the fine line that people walk between morality and ethics, and the motivating circumstances of each decision.
Frank Pasqualino’s direction here is excellent. It moves along briskly, with the actors doing a combination of natural reactionary blocking and then deliberate statements, such as the lack of eye contact between any of the four cast members. He also emphasizes the wonderful humor in the script, in lines and expressions that might otherwise be played with a straight hand.
Blakeman Brophy as the controversial priest Father Flynn delivers a concrete performance. He performed his sermons as monologues rather than stories, making his character less accessible to the parish than he would have you believe. He possesses the boyish charm essential to make Flynn a sympathetic figure, but lacks the mesmerizing familiarity that should be laced within his portrayal. He gains strength during the second act, and has deep moments of sincerity.
Corrine Brush gives us a sweetly earnest Sister James. She is a tad modern for the time and a bit too at ease at times with the formidable Sister Aloysius, but she is genuine in her dedication to the children that she teaches and in her innocence.
Adriana Hardy as Sister Aloysius gives a tour de force performance. It would be all too easy to fall into a stereotypical portrayal of a stern and unyielding nun, but Hardy sidesteps this pitfall with grace. Her Aloysius is necessarily brittle and harsh, but she finds endless layers to her character. Near the end of the show, a rare display of passion induces chills. She humanizes her, a truly great feat.
Having read this play several times, I’ve always had my own personal view on the ambiguous guilt or innocence of Father Flynn. This production gives a much more definitive conclusion for one side of the argument, due largely in part to Brophy’s final scene.
This is a solid performance of an amazing play. The cast will only get stronger and tighter as the run progresses, which should make for a success.
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