COMING TO Cardinal Rep's Freight Station stage is the Pulitzer and Tony Award winning Doubt, A Parable. Written by John Patrick Shanley and directed by Sheila Lynne, this play features minimalistic sets, costumes, and dialogue to focus the audience's attention on the acting.
“The play embodies an ongoing struggle between Victorianism and modernism,” says Lynne. “The Sister embodies remnants of tradition and propriety and a clash of wills ensues.”
Doubt shows a Catholic Church in 1964 struggling between the old ways of Latin masses and stern ministries and the Vatican II efforts to convert to English services and more-friendly church officials.
Sister Aloysius, principal of the church’s school, clings to the old was and strives to take down the church’s new priest, Father Flynn, who embraces the reforms.
Sister Aloysius accuses him of having an improper relationship with a male student, but bases her accusations on suspicions and her own convictions rather than on the basis of evidence or any solid proof. Lines are drawn and sides are chosen based upon who one doubts, the Sister or the Father.
“It makes you look at yourself and your ideas,” says Lakesha Green, who plays Mrs. Muller. “Everyone one has their reasons of their own convictions, and that’s ultimately what it comes down to.”
Green plays Mrs. Muller, the mother of the school’s first African American student and subject of the play’s scandal.
“I had to do a lot of research and talk to different family members from that time period to see the different restrictions and expectations put on an African American woman and her family in 1964,” she explains.
“I really had to remove myself from it and strip down the independence I feel as a woman today.”
Dandy Barrett, playing Sister Aloysius, feels the chief challenge of her character is the perception and layers involved.
“She’s a contrast, very much beholden of tradition, rules, and discipline,” says Barrett, ”but you can also see in her wisps of rebellion to being dominated by men even though she’s in a position of power.”
Barrett also explains that people’s view of Sister Aloysius as an unbending taskmaster and rigid figurehead is integral to her authority, but that there is genuine concern behind her demeanor.
“She rules through fear, but truly believes that being tough is the best way to protect her students, which is her only concern,“ notes Barrett.
Valerie Lavelle plays Sister James, who unwittingly lights the fuse to the entire situation. Lavelle is used to the comedic genre of theatre, but says she couldn’t pass this production up.
“There’s something so strikingly natural about this show, yet the script is so precise,” she explains. “Everything is pertinent to the plot and provides keys to the characters’ personalities.”
In the end it’s still a complicated case of he said-she said with little concrete evidence and even less of a chance of either side backing down.
“I read that the playwright said the final act of the play occurs in the audience’s living rooms,” muses Mark Rand, who plays Father Flynn.
“With all the different ideas and perceptions, it’s ultimately up to the audience to decide for themselves who’s right and wrong.” cs
Doubt, a Parable
When: Dec. 12, 13, 19, & 20 at 8 p.m., Dec. 14 & 21 at 3 p.m.
Where: Freight Station, 703 Louisville Rd.
Cost: General admission is $20, military/students/seniors are $15
Info: cardinalrep.org or 912/631-3773