DOUBT, A PARABLEby John Patrick Shanley
Director – Emily Scott Banks
Set Designer – Tony Curtis
Lighting Designer – Juan Gonzalez
Sound Designer – Jordana Abrenica
Costume Designer – Ryan Matthieu Smith
Father Brendan Flynn – Aaron Roberts
Sister Aloysius Beauvier – Amber Devlin
Sister James – Camille Monae
Mrs. Muller – La’Netia D. Taylor
Photo credit: Eric Younkin
Reviewed Performance: 3/29/2014
Reviewed by Elaine Plybon, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Doubt is set in the Bronx in 1964 at a catholic school. The small cast includes a priest, two nuns and the parent of the first African-American student in the school. Though the play is a one act, lasting about ninety minutes, the action continues well after the last curtain when audience members begin their own discussions about what they believe to be the truth. It is an interesting look into the human feelings of trust, cynicism and judgment.
Director Emily Scott Banks brought together a cast which worked well together, and assembled a crew which clearly took their jobs seriously and knit together scenery, lighting and sound that enhanced the story being told bythe characters.
Set Designer Tony Curtis transformed the proscenium stage into two locations. An elevated platform represented the office of Sister Aloysius, and the other half was the garden or courtyard of the school. I was impressed with Curtis’ attention to detail, using real plants surrounding the garden, small groupings of leaves strewn around the edges of benches and a pedestal statue. The design of the courtyard was exactly as was needed for the action that would ensue there. The office was also very detailed. I especially appreciated the transom window over the door to the office; transoms were common accouterments above doors in the era before central air-conditioning and heating. This attention to detail was one of those things that would not have been missed had it not been there but added an element of legitimacy to the set.
Lighting was designed by Juan Gonzalez. This is a facet of community theater I have often found to be an afterthought, but Gonzalez did a fantastic job plotting lighting that was appropriate & never cast distracting shadows. Through the performance, his cuing to enhance each scene was spot on.
Assisting the lighting and set, Sound Designer Jordana Abrenica carried through with her own detailing, and I especially appreciated the use of appropriate sound effects when needed and silence when not. When Sister Aloysius was in the garden, the sound of whistling wind made me feel cold. It was a nice touch that added depth to my experience of the play.
Ryan Matthieu Smith designed costumes that were not only period appropriate but lent all the subtle nuances of traditional Catholic garments. The nuns are dressed in black habits, complete with rosary, cross and ring, and Father Flynn was seen in a different alb, vestment and stole each time he delivered a sermon. All this added authenticity to their roles.
Amber Devlin was incredibly competent in the role of Sister Aloysius Beauvier. Through facial expression, intonation and body language, Devlin convincingly portrayed the stern, cynical nun who believed Father Flynn had inappropriate relations with a student. Her role was the most demanding, and her presence on stage was nearly constant, having long monologues &and intense dialogue. Devlin never faltered in her delivery, and all her interactions with other cast members were believable and spot on.
Father Brendan Flynn was played by Aaron Roberts. His expressions and body language reflected both his authority and his growing discomfort with the nuns’ accusations. During one scene, as Roberts and Devlin were engaged in a heated argument, both actors’ red faces easily portrayed the intensity of the moment. Flynn’s accent was especially impressive, as rather than using a stereotypical, thick Bronx accent, he opted for a more natural one which truly enhanced his performance and made him even more believable as the accused priest.
Camille Monae, in the role of Sister James, was skillful in portraying the innocence of the role. Through downcast eyes, uncertain intonation and body language, Monae’s performance was appropriate to the role.
La’Netia D. Taylor’s brief appearance in the role of Mrs. Muller, the mother of the student who Sister Aloysius was trying to protect, held an interesting insight into the attitudes of parents trying to help their children get ahead in the world. With her assertiveness and facial expression, Taylor depicted a demure, yet protective mother.
This production of Doubt, A Parable is definitely worth seeing. The attention to detail evident in all aspects of this production makes for a satisfying experience. You will not get a neatly finished ending, however, as the play continues in the mind long after and is meant to provoke discussion through the reflection that follows the performance.
Theatre Arlington, 305 W. Main Street. Arlington, TX 76010
Plays through April 13th
Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday – Saturday at 8:00pm, and Sunday at 2:00pm. Tickets are $22.00 and $20.00 for seniors 62+ and full-time students Student Rush Tickets are available for any remaining seats at five minutes to curtain for only $5.00 with student ID. For information and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.theatrearlington.org/ or call their box office at 817-275-7661 or 817-261-9628 (metro).