Theater Review: Doubt

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Did he, or didn't he? Studio Tenn delivers admirable ambiguity with John Patrick Shanley's award-winning drama.

Studio Tenn presents:
Doubt: A Parable (Feb 15 – 25; Ages 12+)
Jamison Theater at The Factory
230 Franklin Road, Franklin
615-541-8200 • studiotenn.com
Remaining showtimes: Thu – Fri 7 p.m., Sat 2 & 7 p.m., Sun 2 p.m.
Tickets: $30 – $85

Studio Tenn serves up a powerful, thought-provoking theatrical treat with its compelling production of John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt: A Parable. It’s not surprising that Shanley’s masterful Pulitzer Prize-winning drama also picked up the Tony Award for Best Play in 2005. Doubt is drama at its best, and Studio Tenn superbly delivers Shanley’s clever work.

“Doubt can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty,” says parish priest Father Flynn (Brent Maddox) as he delivers a sermon at the beginning of the show. This succinctly sets the tone for the drama that unfolds on stage during the next two hours.

CATHOLIC SCHOOL CHAOS

When mysterious circumstances surface revolving around a one-on-one meeting between Father Flynn and eighth-grader Donald Muller (the Catholic school’s only black student), the school’s stoic, fear-wielding principal, Sister Aloysius (Marguerite Lowell), goes on a rampage to oust Flynn based solely on her suspicion. Without any shred of proof, Aloysius insists Flynn has molested the young student. It’s an example of contempt prior to investigation at its finest.

Given the history of misconduct within the realm of the real-life Catholic church within the past few decades, it’s certainly easy to jump to the conclusion that Flynn is just another priestly pedophile. But it’s that kind of conclusion jumping that’s in the spotlight of Shanley’s script. Along the way, Doubt offers plenty of dialogue on both sides of the question at hand that might convince you either way, although there’s never substantial evidence on either side. Even Aloysius herself has doubts in the aftermath of what she’s done.

The brilliance of Shanley’s work gives the audience much to think about while shining light on the evil, corroding effect of gossip. Flynn’s sermon on this topic midway through the play is perhaps the most poignant truth we take away. The parable here comes in form of a pillow cut by a knife on a rooftop, then trying to collect all of the feathers that have been carried away by the wind. “That is gossip,” Flynn admonishes.

A TOP-NOTCH CAST

Studio Tenn’s high-caliber production is certainly an emotion-stirring experience that will leave you with a lot to discuss afterward.

Matt Logan’s exquisite set creates an authentic 1964 feel where most of the drama plays out in Sister Aloysius’ office. The four-member cast delivers a commendable performance. Maddox’s impressive performance as the charismatic, dashing young Irish priest suggests things may not be so well. Emily Landham gives a spot-on portrayal of the young, sincere, sweet-natured Sister James.

Aleta Myles as Mrs. Muller (Donald’s mother) serves up a powerful scene as she presents an astonishing revelation as a mother who ultimately supports what she deems the lesser of two evils. Myles’ performance is also a standout moment in the play as her character refuses to play Aloysuis’ game, a blow to the nun hellbent on her plight.

Lowell is the undeniable star of the show. She gives a stunning performance as the rigidly conservative nun who will stop at nothing in her quest to be right, which includes some conniving deception of her own along the way. Lowell’s believable portrayal of the merciless, scathing, unyielding Aloysius is a pure, theatrical delight!

Studio Tenn’s Doubt undeniably does what great theater should — giving you much to think about.

 

Photo by MA2LA.

Chad Young is the managing editor and arts/entertainment editor for this publication.

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