Play leaves audiences in ‘Doubt’

Father Flynn, played by Mason Quinn, senior of Cheyenne, Wyo., delivers a sermon during the play “Doubt.”  — photo by Kinley Q. Nichols

Father Flynn, played by Mason Quinn, senior of Cheyenne, Wyo., delivers a sermon during the play “Doubt.” — photo by Kinley Q. Nichols

Without a doubt, the CSC Theatre Department has a reputation for producing dark, thought-provoking plays in the Black Box Theatre. Their production of “Doubt” is no exception. This play addresses serious issues yet leaves the audience to draw its own conclusions. The small cast and stage make this production intimate and gripping.

“Doubt,” which is billed as a parable, exposes a scandal at a Catholic school when Sister Aloysius Beauvier, the stern principal, accuses Father Brendan Flynn of inappropriate relations with the only African-American student at the school, Donald Muller.

Sister Aloysius rules with an iron fist and a starched habit.  She tries to preserve a traditional system of education and religion. Sister James, a young innocent teacher, wants to avoid conflict yet becomes drawn into the middle of it. Father Flynn is a priest who thinks that the school and church should be friendlier and open to new ideas. He coaches boys’ basketball and watches out for Donald Muller. When Aloysius accuses Flynn of pedophilia, conflict brews as Flynn vehemently insists that he is innocent.

Sister James waivers back and forth as to whether she thinks Flynn is guilty. This production places audience members in the same dilemma; just when the evidence against Flynn seems conclusive, doubts arise about the validity of Aloysius’ accusations. The actors play their roles in a way that make both conclusions seem equally plausible.

Shalee Jones, senior of Crawford, plays Sister Aloysius. She initially seemed to be recreating her previous role as the stern aunt from last year’s production of “The Importance of Being Earnest.” However, as the play progresses, Jones develops Aloysius into a complex character instead of what originally seems like a one-sided character. While Aloysius possesses concrete convictions, her expression of doubt at the end of the play gives her character real depth.

Mason Quinn, senior of Cheyenne, Wyo.,  balances the role of Father Flynn in a way that convinces  the audience that he is innocent, and then guilty, within the same scene. Flynn is a charismatic priest who cares about the boys yet harbors personal doubt that hints at another side of his personality. Quinn makes it seem plausible that Flynn could be innocent or guilty.

Amber Nightingale, senior of Morrill, plays Sister James as a young, innocent nun who acts as a foil to the skeptical Aloysius. Because Sister James does not have a backbone, the few occasions when she expresses her opinion are satisfying. While Sister James is an emotional, impressionable character, her hysterics occasionally seem overly theatric

Le’Chere Campbell, freshman of Bellevue, plays the mother of Donald Muller, a troubled boy. She creates a contrast in perspective between Mrs. Muller and Aloysius, who judges from behind the unyielding walls of the parish church. Campbell provides a realistic, yet disturbing reaction to the possible abuse of Mrs. Muller’s son.

While the acting is strong, the beginning of the play rushes quickly into the conflict. Father Flynn is barely introduced before Aloysius decides that he is guilty. There is not enough time to establish Flynn’s character before accusations are thrown at him, although this may be a consequence of the play’s shorter duration.

The Black Box’s intimate setting puts the audience uncomfortably close to the conflict. “Doubt” incorporates the sensitive issues of child abuse in the Catholic church, homosexuality, and racial discrimination. Although these issues can often be dodged in life, the audience cannot distance themselves from the issues within this production. “Doubt” is not a reassuring play with a neat resolution. Instead, the characters’ consternation will leave audience members with  doubts of their own.

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