Thursday evening I went to the final tech rehearsal of Doubt: A Parable at Center Playhouse. I saw the Meryl Streep / Philip Seymour Hoffman film last year and thought it was good but never experienced a staged version of the play. Sitting in the audience, I had no idea that I was about to be surpised by what a good director can do on a small stage with four talented actors and a beautifully written play.
The small stage holds a divided set: one half is Sister Aloysius’ office and the other half is a portion of the convent gardens, with the building and stained glass windows in the background. The stark contrast of a stoic, sparsely decorated, dark office to the beautifully maintained meditation garden is a manifestation of the plot itself: the discomfort of doubt vs. the comforting notion of certainty.
The play itself is beautifully written. Many people have a misconception that this play is about sexual abuse between priests and young parishioners, which has been in the news over the last few years. However, this play is not about the church scandals. The playwright John Patrick Shanley stated, “I’m more interested in people becoming more accepting and comfortable with living with doubt because I think that’s one of the big problems we’ve had in this country in the last decade.”
Director Anthony Greco was drawn to the play because, “Doubt reveals the struggle of seeking certainty in an uncertain world. While Shanley sets this parable to Catholicism, it is a metaphor for life and those who use, or even abuse power. The well-developed characters represent different ages, sexes, social classes, ultimately the different strata of any given society, and enriched by Shanley’s remarkable text, the combination helps evoke the humanity, compassion, and even doubt from this outstanding ensemble drama.”
Greco chose a stellar cast to give life to his vision. Eve Connolly, a Lawrenceville resident and the 2008 Perry Award winner for Best Lead Actress in a Play for her performance in Driving Miss Daisy, has been cast as Sister Aloysius, the rigid and fear-inspiring principal of the fictional Saint Nicholas Church School. Jeff Caplan, a Manchester resident and Perry Award nominee, is tackling the role of Father Flynn, a part he performed in Center Players’ public play reading of the show in August. The naïve and impressionable Sister James is being played by Colleen Labella of Clark; she recently concluded a successful run of The Crucible at the Holmdel Theatre Company, starring as Abigail alongside movie and stage actor Brian O’Halloran. The cast is rounded out by Linda Saunders, playing Mrs. Muller, mother of the boy that Father Flynn is “mentoring.” Ms. Saunders, a Freehold resident, has performed in Center Players’ productions of The Vagina Monologues and Charlotte’s Web this past year.
Doubt: A Parable opens at Center Playhouse on Friday, October 15th and runs for five weekends until Saturday, November 13th. Call 732-462-9093 for tickets and further information. If you only see one thought-provoking play a year, this is it. Call today as seating is limited.
Blogger Fern Marder is an avid theater-goer and student of the arts. An avid proponent of blogging as a way to build business, her writings are slowly filling the internet.