Thursday, March 7, 2013

Doubt: a Parable

By Cambria Roth

“Doubt can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty,” says Father Flynn, a progressive priest at the heart of the play “Doubt: a Parable,” performing through March 23 at Brüka Theatre in downtown Reno.

The year is 1964 at the St. Nicholas Church School in the Bronx, and Sister Aloysius is a cold, stern nun who is determined to prove her doubts certain. Her religious beliefs are tested in her quest to prove the sexual misconduct by Father Flynn with a young black boy.

All of the students at the school enjoy spending time with the priest and gym teacher, Flynn. In comparison, most students are terrified of the seemingly cold-hearted nun Aloysius.

From the opening scenes, there is a well-formed camaraderie between Aloysius and Sister James. It is also obvious from that scene that Aloysius runs her school on the premise of fear. She lectures the bubbly James about her tendency to perform while teaching as she points out, “Good teachers don’t perform, they cause students to perform.”

James’ wide-eyed innocence and obliviousness is endearing. She brings personality to the performance as she questions whether she is showing off. Despite Aloysius' frigid demeanor, she still brings humor to the play with statements such as, “It’s as if you’re on a broadway stage.”

"Doubt: a Parable" flier
The play takes on a more serious note, as James confesses that Flynn took a young black boy, Donald, to the monastery alone, and Donald came back to class scared with alcohol on his breath.

From this point on, Aloysius is convinced that the priest molested Donald, and she is determined to prove his misconduct. She confronts the priest, with James at her side.

Sister Aloysius’ campaign against the priest is fueled entirely by her own suspicions and no hard evidence, but she will stop at nothing. She will even step away from God for justice to be done.

From Flynn’s first sermon — and continuing sermons throughout the play — the audience is connected to his boyish humor and easygoing personality. The audience is also connected to Aloysius’ biting sarcasm and caring heart, which is initially concealed by her cold exterior.

Throughout the play, the viewer is kept guessing as to whether Flynn is guilty. The play switches between scenes of charming sermons from Flynn and dramatic discussions between Aloysius and James, allowing the audience to examine both sides of the situation and doubt both the priest’s actions and the nun’s accusations.

The play leads to several questions: How far is Aloysius willing to go? How could Flynn, a likable man, do something so terrible? Is it only Aloysius’ old-fashioned conservative mind that is accusing Flynn? Who does the audience believe?

“Doubt, A Parable” eventually leaves audiences not only doubting Flynn and Aloysius, but doubting their own beliefs as well.