DOUBT by Ross Valley Players
Reviewed by Jeffrey R Smith of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle
The Ross Valley Players are currently performing DOUBT by John Patrick Shanley.
The play is set in 1964 at the Saint Nicholas Church School in the Bronx.
The dialogue pivots centrifugally about a priest—Father Brendan Flynn—who is seemingly too friendly with the students, particularly a male student—Donald Muller—who happens to demonstrate homosexual leanings and a penchant for alter wine.
Father Flynn is new to the school: he has been bouncing around the parish like wallaby on crack; always staying one step ahead of formal inquiries and one step behind hearsay and innuendo.
The hard-boiled biddy: Mother Superior—Sister Aloysius Beauvier—immediately smells a rat: better yet, she senses that Father Flynn is merely a pedophile masquerading as a priest.
Given the play is set in 1964 long before our perceptions of the priesthood were glazed over with newspaper headlines, the audience is obliged to put aside current stereotypes as the play unfurls.
The script is brilliantly crafted and perfectly balanced in its presentation of the evidence.
Trotting out the equivocal case against Father Flynn is designed to do exactly what the title alludes to i.e. to produce a stultifying, stymieing and immobilizing doubt that arrests the decision making process and the mind’s ability to reach a firm conclusion.
The glacial Sister Beauvier—played marvelously by Chris Macomber—cannot afford to capitulate to doubt: Father Flynn must go.
The novice Sister James—superbly performed by Shannon O’Neil Creighton—although privy to all the evidence against Father Flynn, remains deadlocked in her ambivalence.
Sister Beauvier and Sister James perhaps have the same degree of doubt, but Sister Beauvier does not have the luxury of merely ruminating on the case as Sister James does.
The play runs through February 13 and, thanks to a great cast and highly polished production standards, is as intellectually challenging as it is entertaining.
In a world brimming with mass media pabulum, DOUBT is a refreshing alternative.
For tickets call 415-456-9555 extension 3, or visit www.rossvalleyplayers.com/tickets.