The Religion Network
Video Clips
The Center Theatre Group has been presenting the award-winning drama, "Doubt"
on stage at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. After the performance on
September 29, 2006, the Center Theatre Group held one of its very popular
"Neighborhood Nights," a chance for audience members to mingle and discuss
the show they have just attended. That particular evening, Lisa Bowman of The
Religion Network moderated a panel discussion with the guests. It was a lively event!
These are snippets of both the distinguished panel and the audience's response to
the thought-provoking play.

If you're unfamiliar with the show, you may wish to read the review first.

Stage Review by Lisa Bowman

Doubt by John Patrick Shanley   
Ahmanson Theatre
        
       If one somehow doesn’t glean the theme of Pulitzer Prize winning play,
    Doubt, from its title, playwright John Patrick Shanley flatly states it in the first
    line, “What do you do when you’re not sure?” From that dramatic moment
    forward, Shanley takes us for a dizzying theatrical ride, never once letting
    viewers feel certain about the goodness of any of the play’s four characters.
          Doubt swept Broadway’s Tony Awards in 2005, garnering Best
    Play, Best Director (Doug Hughes), Best Actress (Cherry Jones, reprising
    her role) and Best Supporting Actress (Adriane Lenox, also reprising her
    role in this production). It is set in New York in 1964, not coincidentally
    when Shanley attended a Catholic school in the Bronx. Also not by chance
    is that this is the time during which alleged child molestations by Catholic
    priests now in litigation were occurring.         
           This is the setting upon which Shanley hangs his parable, and yet
    child molestation is not its theme. But acting with black and white certainty
    in a world painted with grays comprises much of the play’s premise. Is
    Father Flynn (Chris McGarry) molesting the school’s first black student?
    Based on the flimsiest of evidence, the aggressively moralistic school
    principal, Sister Aloysius, leaps to the conclusion that he is and thus
    launches her  campaign to stop the priest from doing…what? We just
    can’t be sure. And neither can Sister Aloysius, despite her ensuing actions.
           Draping knee jerk judgment over the hot button topic of pedophilia is a
    stroke of discomforting, exploitive genius on Shanley’s part. Precisely
    because of the sexual connotations it is impossible to avoid
    a visceral, engrossing interest in the priest's possible guilt; equally so
    whether Sister Aloysius is a perceptive woman way ahead of her time or
    merely a devastating bull in the china shop shattering people’s lives.
           Cherry Jones, winner of Broadway’s Tony Award for her performance
    as Sister Aloysius, portrays the rigid, crusty nun as a woman with good
    intentions distorted by her blind, unfeeling zeal. The imposing Jones layers
    a brilliant interpretation of a character that both intimidates and impresses
    in a most disturbing way. Jones’ innate respect for this woman allows her
    character to serve as both antagonist and a partial protagonist within the
    play. The duality could only be achieved by a formidable actress in a seminal
    role. In lesser hands the part could easily crumble into a one-dimensional
    caricature.
           McGarry as the priest in question, presents a man guided more by
    feelings than principle. Without a hint of the scriptures in the two sermons
    we hear him give, he moralizes unilaterally. Yet he appears motivated by
    genuine care for his students. What is not clear is whether his personal
    moral compass would prevent him from acting on abusive impulses he
    may possess. Given the circumstances, a train wreck with the stern nun
    is inevitable.
           Young Lisa Joyce plays Sister James, a naturally buoyant nun whose
    joy Sister Aloysius destroys. Unfortunately, Joyce plays the nun with a limp
    naiveté that weakens the transition. The more interesting choice would have
    been to play Sister James unspoiled yet intellectually sharp. Watching Sister
    Aloysius systematically cut away at her heart by casting suspicions on Father
    Flynn then would have had greater impact. As it is, it’s like taking candy from
    a baby. She’s no match.
           The fourth element in the play is the mother of the boy who perhaps is
    being molested by Father Flynn. Adriane Lenox plays Mrs. Muller with raw
    emotional tension. Her stinging desperation lends her character a shocking
    perspective on the situation. Her only scene in the entire play, it still earned
    Lenox a Tony Award. The fireworks she and Jones set off are a tribute to two
    stunning actresses.
           Director Doug Hughes spins the parable of Doubt with a sure, swift hand.
    He is the first to speak admiringly of Shanley’s lean writing. Armed with the
    one certainty that humanity suffers from chronic uncertainty, they both use the
    play as a rehearsal for our lives. Hughes spares us no emotional agony during
    the play. And as the curtain falls, both he and Shanley ensure that we will leave
    the theatre gasping for breath in a sea of deep misgivings. It's rare theatre.
          Doubt throws down a disconcerting gauntlet. It challenges us to trust that
    growth can only sprout from the tenuous roots of painfully broken certainty.

     
        "Doubt" runs at the Ahmanson Theatre
                 in Los Angeles thru Oct. 29.

    Clip # 1 - A guest puts in her
    two cents and gets a good
    laugh from the audience.

    Clip # 2 - Father Wilfred
    Raymond, National Director
    of Family Theatre Productions,
    gives his reaction to the play.

    Clip # 3 - Dr. Sharon Talovic,
    Psychologist and another panel
    member, shares her thoughts.

    Clip # 4 - Two guests of
    Neighborhood Night close
    the proceedings with great
    and insightful comments.