by John Patrick Shanley
Oct. 17 - Nov. 8, 2008
Directed by Michael Payne
"Doubt, a Parable" was the
recipient of an extraordinary number of awards during its Broadway and
include the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play.
Other Best Play nods came from the New York Drama Critics'
Circle, the Drama Desk Awards and the Lucille Lortel Awards. Prior to this play,
John Patrick Shanley is probably best known for his Academy Award-winning
screenplay of "Moonstruck."
"Doubt, a Parable" is a
fast-moving, intense story set in 1964 at St. Nicholas, a Catholic church and
school in the Bronx. Sister Aloysius is the principal of the school, and she is
having doubts about the moral character of the new priest who serves the parish
and teaches physical education and religion to the students.
She enlists the
help of a young eighth grade teacher, Sister James, asking her to watch for any
suspicious activities between the priest and the boys at the school. Later, the
sister holds a conference with the mother of a new student with whom she fears
Father Flynn has had inappropriate contact.
As the play
progresses, the plot becomes an explosive cat and mouse game between the older
nun and the priest, as Sister Aloysius tries to force Father Flynnís confession
and resignation without any clear evidence of misconduct. However, after all the
sparks fly, Shanley intentionally leaves the ending of his play ambiguous.
For the setting
and the characters of the nuns, Shanley draws on his own experiences growing up
in the Bronx attending Catholic schools. But while the play is rooted in his
past, he intends its themes to reach beyond 1964 in a New York borough. In an
interview, he explained, "I wanted to write a play
embracing doubt. About the merit of doubt as opposed to certainty."
In a preface to
the manuscript of the play, he writes: "It is Doubt
(so often experienced initially as weakness) that changes things. When a man
feels unsteady, when he falters, when hard-won knowledge evaporates, he's
on the verge of growth." Although the play uses the
idea of suspected sexual abuse within a Catholic parish as the driving force of
its dramatic plot, Shanley says: "I wasnít at all
interested in the church scandals when I wrote the play. What interested me was
the moral certainty that people had at that time [the early 1990s] about all
kinds of things. And it was so deep, they couldn't see
things that were right in front of them."