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newportbeachindy . com SEPTEMBER 30 , 2022 9

ARTSCAPES / CURTAIN UP

Newport Theatre Arts Center ’ s Staging of ‘ Doubt ’ Capitalizes on 2004 Play ’ s Strengths

The cast of “ Doubt ” at Newport Theatre Arts Center : Standing ( L to R ) Troy Stafford Whiteley , Victoria Leigh Serra . Sitting ( L to R ) Roslynn Samone Glasco , Della Lisi Kerr / photo by Charles Weinberg
By Eric Marchese | Special to the NB Indy
John Patrick Shanley ’ s “ Doubt ” is among the few plays that can be said to delve into intellectual concepts while also being emotionally potent , using two characters locked in opposition to examine human nature .
All the more intriguing is that both characters play their cards close to the vest , not wanting to provide their adversary an advantage . And so “ Doubt ” generates incredible tension , with each successive scene upping the ante – but leaves it to us to decide the actual “ truth .”
Directed by Eric Modyman , Newport Theatre Arts Center ’ s new production of “ Doubt ” proves the durability and potency of the 2004 play ’ s script , which covers tremendous ground , morally and otherwise , over a tight hour-and-a-half running time .
We ’ re at St . Nicolas , a fictional Catholic church and school in the Bronx , circa 1964 . The parish priest , Father Brendan Flynn ( Troy Stafford Whitely ), takes a progressive view of his role , choosing to befriend rather than discipline the school ’ s adolescent male students .
An incident involving Flynn , that might be interpreted as inappropriate behavior by him toward one of his students , seems to have been resolved – yet it draws the attention of the school ’ s principal , Sister Aloysius Beauvier ( Della Lisi Kerr ).
The fact that the boy in question is the parish ’ s first black student clouds the moral waters all the more .
In personality , beliefs and temperament , Sister Aloysius is Flynn ’ s polar opposite , a stern , no-nonsense , toe-the-line scold suspicious of all and trusting of no one .
Shanley deliberately creates ambiguity , a brilliant approach that prompts us to think and analyze . The play raises countless questions yet answers none . The more issues it depicts , the more confusion we feel in sifting through our own thoughts and feelings toward the characters .
We see right off the bat that Sister Aloysius will not stop her crusade against Father Flynn until she has rid the parish – and possibly even the church itself – of him . In uncharted waters , she proceeds with caution , implying everything but stating nothing .
Flynn and Aloysius are as similar as oil and water , yet Modyman and company don ’ t press that issue . Their subtle approach pays off with the show ’ s laudable mix of character study with a more familiar element – a battle of wills between two adversaries .
To snare and dispose of Father Flynn , Sister Aloysius enlists Sister James ( Victoria Leigh Serra ), a novitiate who wishes desperately to please her superior yet who finds Father Flynn kind and wholly likable .
Shanley ’ s story wouldn ’ t have worked if set much earlier or later than 1964 . His play brilliantly depicts the gender and Civil Rights issues of the time in broad strokes , and NTAC ’ s staging clarifies and sharpens the script .
The gender and social hierarchy issues depicted by Shanley are brought into sharp focus when Sister Aloysius invites Mrs . Muller , the black student ’ s mother ( Roslynn Samone Glasco ), to her office to determine the boy ’ s future . Shanley uses the scene to further ramp up tension while pointing up the gaping social disparities present in our society 60 years ago .
We instantly see Aloysius ’ s intoler-
DOUBT Page 11

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