Facing doubts

 

"Doubt

Indiana Repertory Theatre

Directed by James Still

Through Feb. 9

Doubt is a play that was written to spark discussion. Original cast members stated that the 90-minute production’s second half is the conversation audience members might — and should — engage in on the trip home. Offering speculation but no answers, the audience is left to examine their own doubts about the characters in the show — and to reflect on how doubt plays such a major role in our own, more mundane lives. The play was a hit on Broadway, winning the 2005 Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize, among other awards. However, playwright John Patrick Shanley is more commonly known for having authored eclectic cinematic works, including Moonstruck, Joe Versus the Volcano, Alive and the adaptation for Congo.

Doubt is set in 1964 at a Catholic grade school run by Sisters of Charity. The “doubt” is whether or not Father Flynn (Lenny Von Dohlen) is having an inappropriate relationship with the first black child in the school, Donald. The school principal, Sister Aloysius (Priscilla Lindsay), is hell-bent on proving Father Flynn’s guilt, and drags the young and inexperienced eighth-grade teacher, Sister James (Cora Wander Broek), into her machinations.

The production, under James Still’s direction, is obviously a labor of love for those involved. From the faultless staging, to the fascinating set, to flawless acting, the show runs like butter. Von Dohlen is warm and confident as a teacher who believes in nurturing students — but is his friendliness a mask for ulterior motives? Wander Broek is the picture of a naïve woman who is being faced with coming to her own conclusions — a fearful task for someone used to being told what to do. Lindsay is the strict headmaster who is hampered in her witch-hunt by the male clergy who outrank her — is her reaction to Father Flynn genuine concern or a symptom of her own frustration? Each cast member ekes out every possibility in their character’s potential motives. Dwandra Nickole as Mrs. Muller, Donald’s mother, appears briefly, doing double duty as a representative of the plight of African-Americans in 1964 and to cast more doubts on the relationship Father Flynn and Donald share.

The ambiance of the show is captured through the hinting of areas instead of delineation (scenic design by Anne Sheffield) in conjunction with effective lighting of the stage (Lap Chi Chu): The dreariness of fall (wind, rain, barren trees and the emotions those images conjure) mirrors the subject matter.

Doubt continues through Feb. 9 at the IRT, 140 W. Washington St. Tickets are $24-$37. Call 317-635-5252 or go to www.irtlive.com.

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