Despite some static direction by Terence Lamude, “Doubt: A Parable,” now being presented at Capital Repertory Theatre, is worth seeing.
Commendable acting, fine production values, and a 90-minute text that charges along like a freight train until it hits the concrete wall of the final scene combine to rivet its audience.
The story, set in a Bronx Catholic school in 1964, begins with a sermon by the beloved young priest, Father Flynn (Torsten Hillhouse), which asks the critical question, “What do you do when you’re not sure?”
Very soon, perhaps too soon and perhaps too facilely for complete dramatic satisfaction, we learn that Sister Aloysius (Donna Davis) principal of the school, suspects him of “interfering” with the school’s first black student.
She confides her suspicions to Sister James (Winslow Corbett). Reluctantly the innocent younger nun agrees to help Sister Aloysius set into motion the mechanism that will destroy Father Flynn.
When she finally invites the boy’s mother, Mrs. Muller (Kelly Taffe), into her office to tell her about Father Flynn’s horrible agenda, shattering secrets are revealed and the show blazes into its final scenes.
Hillhouse plays Father Flynn with a boyish sweetness, reminding the audience of the sweetness and vulnerability of 12-year-old boys, even bad ones.
Davis gives Sister Aloysius the tartness of a seasoned nun who trusts no one, least of all her students.
The character is complex — we never truly know whether she is morally outraged or simply obsessed.
This may be a function of the text or the direction. However, it is the most disconcerting element of the production. Sister Aloysius is capable of a snappy comic comeback, which might redeem her in the eyes of some audience members — especially those brought up in Catholic schools.
She hates ballpoint pens and finds art classes a “waste of time.”
When told by the younger nun that she has “uniformly terrified” her students, she replies, “Yes, that’s how it works.”
In a discussion of the Christmas Pageant, she labels “Frosty the Snowman” a commercial for the “pagan belief in magic” and adds that it ought to be “banned from the airwaves.”
But the Sister Aloysius of this production is not redeemed — she is simply hateful.
Corbett’s Sister James is lovably inadequate. She loves to teach, but her superior has taken the joy from her vocation by espousing the notion that she must separate herself from her students, not be in league with them.
She has a wonderful moment with Father Flynn when he tells her that Sister Aloysius has convinced her that the “light in her heart is a weakness.”
Kelly Taffe gives a well-timed performance as Mrs. Muller. Her strength builds as she faces the indomitable principal and finally triumphs in her convictions.
The remarkable set by Christopher St. Hilaire is angled to evoke the uncertainty of the characters. Lighting by Rachel Budin nicely navigates the many locations of the play’s action.
“Doubt: A Parable”
WHERE: Capital Repertory Theatre,
111 N. Pearl St., Albany
WHEN: Through June 29
HOW MUCH: $46-$36
MORE INFO: 445-7469
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Categories: Life and Arts