Edmond Chibeau looks at performance and theatre from the avant-garde communication perspective

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Location: Mansfield, Connecticut, United States

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Doubt Closes The Hope

Doubt: A Parable
By John Patrick Shanley
Harry Hope Theatre
Halloween 2015
Directed by Alycia Bright Holland
 The play which premiered in 2004 takes place in a catholic school in the Bronx in 1964, less than a year after the assassination of John Kennedy, and 5 years after the Second Vatican Council that attempted to make the ritual of the church more accessible to the congregants.  Shanley’s play about a nun in a Catholic school who confronts a priest whom she believes is molesting a child in the school brings together all the elements of theatre.  The script has already proven itself to be worthy of a Pulitzer Prize, a Tony Award for best play, and a movie staring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman. This production takes the script and adds all of the other elements that are necessary to create a satisfying evening of theatre.

It is a testament to the skill of the director that all of the actors are on the same tonal page while expressing a wide range of emotions. The blocking is both natural and unobtrusive but audience members who take the time to notice will see that Alycia Bright Holland’s experience as a dancer and choreographer helped her give the actors blocking that reveals character and advances the plot. The whole show is understated, subtle, and insightful.  It has a wide range of emotions.

Maureen McDonnell who plays the lead character, Sister Aloysius, uses her voice to great effect.  All of the actors, but especially McDonald, manage to reach the last row without shouting, and express great emotion without sounding shrill or out of control.   McDonnell’s face, set off by her nun’s habit, is a kaleidoscope of restrained emotion.

Corey Lorraine as Father Flynn changes his attitude as the scenes progress and leaves it open to us to decide if he is innocent or guilty of the sins that he is accused of by Sister Aloysius.

Stephanie Madden, as the younger more innocent Sister James, is torn apart by her wish to avoid evil, and her responsibility to fight against it. Her emotions often ripple across her body before she speaks.

Charliece Salters, as Mrs. Muller, brings the quiet intensity and desperate dignity to the role of Mrs. Muller, the mother of the boy who either was, or was not, molested by the priest.

The sound design is simple and well executed, with just enough reverb in the microphone to give us a sense of being in church during a homily.  

Scenic Designer Kristen Morgan, with the help of Technical Director & Production Manager F. Chase Rozelle III, give us a multilevel set with doors, window, and scrims that carry us to several locations and times.

The lights, by Jeffrey E. Salzberg, set the mood and keep everyone in focus.  In the church scenes,  downlights over the audience bring us in as part of the congregation. He also places a soft special on the Crucifix in Sister Aloysius’s office that helps remind us of the authority under whom all of these negotiations are taking place.

It should also be noted that Black Op Ninja, Aspasia Daniolos, operating away from the stage, was so subtle as to be absolutely invisible.

Everything comes together in an organic whole that results in a satisfying and insightful, and emotionally troubling, night at the theatre.

The Harry Hope Theatre closes forever at the end of the run of the Alycia Bright Holland production of John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt.
As Hickey, in Harry Hope’s Saloon, in O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh says,
             “You’ll be in a today where there is no yesterday or tomorrow to worry you.”

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