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Previews: 10/10/12- Close: 11/18/12 Doubt -- Pulitzer Prize-winning Play
Reviewed for By: Minda Larsen

Daniel Terna ©2019  Nora Jane Williams (Sister James) & Mike Roche (Father Flynn)

Mere mention of the play Doubt will elicit any number of responses. Even my own mother has her thoughts about it: “Oooh, is that the one with the nuns and the priest accused of…you know...that?”

“What?” I asked her.

 “You know,” she continued, “doing …you know…that… to that little boy in the school”

Perhaps, in her own way, my mother has hit the nail on the head.

Set in the working class Northeast, Doubt tells the captivating story of a priest accused of scandal. It is less about his actions, however, and more about the lines of human conviction and morality. What he is accused of is never actually stated: no character utters the words pedophile, sex, or even harassment or abuse. It is inferred. It is referred to, it is imagined. Doubt lives in this grey area. And in turn, it forces an audience into the same grey reality. One in which we all live everyday. Though set so clearly on stage with such a superb script and actors, we are transported into this mushy world; trying to decipher what is real and what is right.

Daniel Terna ©2019  Nora Jane Williams (Sister James)

It is a play regarded with the highest esteems, both in the inner circles of actors and playwrights, amongst theater enthusiasts and, thanks to the Academy Award winning movie – a vast majority of the general public. Thus, the anticipation surrounding such great work is tangible. People want to see this play. Such was the case at the T.Schrieber Studio’s opening night. The production quality was top-notch. Lighting, sound, set, costumes professional and solid.

The play opens with Father Flynn (Mike Roche) giving a sermon. His opening line: “What do you do when you’re not sure?” indeed brilliantly sets up the entire play.  His monologue left me with a few initial thoughts: 1. Whoa, what great writing! and 2. Whoa, accent! Mike Roche plays the working-class Northeastern priest, generally regarded for his human qualities: he is tolerant, he is affable, he tells stories about real life, he smiles a lot, he is approachable, he plays basketball for heavens sake. Above all, he is human. I missed the human quality a bit in Mr. Roche’s performance. The accent and gestures seemed characterizations; at times, he seemed to be playing the character and not the man.

That being said, he had moments of greatness. His sermon on gossip was wonderfully done and, in fact, the accent(s) worked here. His scene with the younger nun, Sister James, finally allowed the audience in. When she tells him she believes him, his relief was beautifully played, and finally, I liked the guy. His quiet moment of uncertainty after the fiery meeting with Sister Aloysius, the principal of the school, was powerful.

Sister Aloysius, the nun accusing Father Flynn, was played with an iron steel and deep-voiced certainty by Alice Barrett Mitchell.  In the aforementioned pivotal scene with Father Flynn, she plowed through him. He didn’t stand a chance. Ms. Mitchell’s performance was indeed the strongest in the show. She grew as the play progressed, and after her final declaration, “I have such doubts!” someone in the audience remarked, “Wow, she nailed that.”

Daniel Terna ©2019  Jane Williams (Sister James) & Alice Barrett Mitchell (Sister Aloysius)

Nora Jane Williams played the young nun, Sister James, caught up in the middle of the scandal. Her performance was genuine and engaged, if not a bit sniffly. Her character is torn between doing what is right and what she feels in her heart and is an unenviable position. Her emotions were a bit heightened, however, and she seemed prone to burst into tears at any moment. She also struggled a bit with the accent, although she did very well not to fall into the character traps it presents, and remained steadfast in her convictions.

Brenda Crawley played Mrs. Muller, the young boy’s mother, and she played it wonderfully. She managed to remain likeable and “right” even though what she was saying could easily make her a monster.

 By it’s very nature, Doubt forces one to rethink right and wrong, and our own convictions. T.Schrieber studio presented a brilliant work insightfully performed by outstanding actors. The standing ovation spoke for itself.  Audience members are provided a rare opportunity to look within ourselves and question our own morality and …you know…that.  

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Gloria Maddox Theatre : 151 West 26th Street, 7th Floor