Highly Recommended ***** It has been awhile since I have seen the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Doubt: A Parable” on the stage. I guess I forgot how powerful this riveting drama is. Writers Theatre makes it even stronger by presenting this production at Glencoe’s Union Church, just east of the train station. The Library has been converted into a small theater, with just the right intimacy for this strong 90 minute ( no intermission) drama that deals with authority, suspicion, religion, and of course doubt.
The time is the 1960’s. Our country is going through many changes, political and social. Kennedy has just been assassinated! We are just starting to hear about the Catholic Church having problems with their priests taking advantage of young congregants. In our story, a progressive young priest, Father Flynn (solidly portrayed by Steve Haggard), who opens the play with a clever sermon, is trying to build a better relationship with the students of the school. He is also their basketball coach.
The school principal is Sister Aloysius (Karen Janes Woditsch should get a Jeff nomination for this one), who runs “her” school the way she feels it should be, and is a bit suspicious about this new Priest and his relationship with the boys. This is a grammar school and so the boys are at a time in their life where actions may be mis-interpreted.
Sister James (deftly handled by Eliza Stoughton) goes to her supervisor to tell her of something she witnessed involving the priest and one of her students, a young, shy boy, who just happens to be the only African-American student in the school. Sister Aloysius has her own beliefs and fears and sets out to prove that there is wrongdoing going on in “her school” that must be stopped!
What happens from this point on , is that the two minds, the priest and the principal go into verbal and mental battle over what is right and what is wrong. Under the smooth direction of William Brown, John Patrick Shanley’s production shows well with the passing of time. Yes, we now know that there was a great deal of abuse in those days, but in this case, we are never sure if our priest is truly guilty or if he is being accused by a woman who just doesn’t feel right about this man. Our principal also is unique in that she had been a married woman whose husband was killed in World War II, and her life changed to this new existence.
There is one more character in this story, Mrs. Muller, the mother of the young man who might be the one who was abused. It turns out that his mother placed him into this school so he could survive and make it to high school. He has some personal problems and his father beats him just for being who he is. The priest making him feel good about himself was the first positive sign his mother saw. Now, she is faced with the situation that he could be tossed back into the “system”.
As we watch this story unfold, we should take a look at our own lives as well as those who we see each day. How often have we made a statement about something only to learn that what we said may not be factual. In this world, unlike the era that this story is in, we have e-mail and once a message is sent, it become viral. Just imagine what would have taken place had our Sister Aloysius been able to put her allegations onto the Internet- it would have been curtains for the priest. Sitting in this quaint Glencoe church, I truly felt like the “fly on the wall” listening to all sides of the story. The question was never resolved 100% for me, but I left the theater feeling that I understood just how something of this nature could happen and how many lives could be changed or altered because of one person’s view.
The set by Kevin Depinet is unique in that we are in a building that we know houses a church, and the stage setting could be what is actually there when there is no play, but appears to be for the production. The costumes by Rachel Anne Healy are very Catholic, except for that of Mrs. Muller, and Sarah Hughey’s lighting and Andrew Hansen’s sound along with the props by D.J. Reed make this become 90 minutes of wonderful theater. An experience that is worth seeing for the history and for the imagery.
“Doubt : A Parable” will continue at the Glencoe Union Church located at 321 Park Avenue n Glencoe (a short walk from the train station) with lots of free parking, through July 19th with performances as follows:
Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 4 and 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 and 6 p.m.
There are select Wednesday matinees at 2 p.m.
Tickets range from $35-$75 and can be purchased by visiting the Writers box office located at 321 park Avenue, by phone at 847-242-6000 or online at www.writerstheatre.org where you can also learn about the new venue and its progress.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Doubt: A parable”.