After seeing the 2008 movie starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman, it was unclear how a local production would stack up.
Instead, the intense nature of the show easily draws the viewer in like a jury member of an important court case with little evidence. John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt” tells the story of head nun Sister Aloysius (Elizabith Dowd) who suspects a priest, Father Flynn (Stephen Weitz), of having a sexual relationship with a male student in 1960s Catholic school.
To add a dimension of innocence, the young Sister James (Rebecca Remaly) is forced into the mix, creating an intricate look into the hearts of characters and their ultimate judgment day.
Upon entering the theater, an overwhelming air of tradition overcomes the senses. The simplistic stage is divided into three sections: a pulpit, an outdoor area with a circular bench and a bare principal’s office- all standard locations for a religious drama.
Once the play begins, it becomes obvious that the set is simply a backdrop. Its bare nature is purposeful, not to draw an ounce of attention from the emotionally charged dilemmas taking place onstage.First time BETC actress Dowd carries the show flawlessly, beckoning the audience to love to hate her. Reinforcing a strict Catholic nun stereotype, while imploring some insight and sympathy for her actions, certainly is not a simple task. Different from the movie performance by Meryl Streep, she allows for moments of weakness, stutters her words and even cracks a smile here and there.
Nevertheless she maintains her role as a pillar of severity and captivates the audience with her soft but authoritative tone.
Deftly articulating his words, Weitz performs the role of Father Flynn with booming confidence. His obvious Shakespearean training, however, can be distracting in his performance, occasionally pulling the viewer out of the play’s realistic nature. He deserves credit though for his intense moments of rapture, especially when delivering moving monologues at the pulpit.
The escalation of sparring between the two is like witnessing a polite tennis match gone hostile. The character struggle between opposing ideologies kept a strong momentum in the play as clean religious hands slowly became dirty.
Unlike the film version, filled with children and other nuns, it was surprising to find that the cast contained only four adult characters. At first it seemed as if a huge aspect of the play was missing; all passions in the show undoubtedly revolve around the children.
Cleverly, the audience becomes the extras; Father Flynn speaks out into the crowd at the pulpit and talks to “the boys” at basketball practice. The sense of audience involvement in the story provides a strong asset to the performance, effortlessly drawing the crowd into the web of suspicions.
The play deals with themes such as isolation, inner-conflict and, as the title suggests, doubt. With such strong themes small casts can struggle if an actor is out of sync with the others. “Doubt” does not suffer from this problem, with emotionally stimulating acting performances from Remaly and Ghandia Johnson, who played the student’s mother.
At the end of the day it’s the fantastic frustration in the plot that kept its audience holding on for dear life to the events of the play. The suspense of drawing conclusions only to abandon them one scene later is a goal many plays aspire to. The appeal of “Doubt” truly lies in this conflict, leaving its audience with wonderful, fascinated doubt.
“Doubt, A Parable” is showing at The Dairy Center for the Arts in Boulder from Sept. 30 to Oct. 23, tickets are $18 for CU Students and can be purchased at www.thedairy.org.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Stephanie Riesco at Stephanie.firstname.lastname@example.org.