‘Doubt, A Parable’
• What: Drama presented by Aberdeen Community Theatre.
• Where: Capitol Theatre, 415 S. Main St.
• Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
• Admission: $18 in advance, $20 at the door.
• To buy tickets: Visit Kathleen's, 401 S. Main St., from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. To order by phone, call 605-725-2697 beginning at 10 a.m. To buy tickets online, visit AberdeenCommunityTheatre.com.
“Doubt, A Parable” is at its best when it has the feel of a courtroom drama. It's fun watching two strong figures engage in a battle of wits as we try to figure out what really happened.
If you're looking for any new insights, though, “Doubt” isn't the place to go. The acting in the Aberdeen Community Theater production is quite good. Writer John Patrick Shanley gives the characters some feisty exchanges. But you won't find anything in this play that hasn't been in the headlines for the last 20 years.
The show's main character, Sister Aloysius, is the principal of St. Nicholas School. And she definitely runs the place. Those who believe in upholding standards will admire some of Sister Aloysius’ methods. Unfortunately, she is not really a nice person. Experience has taught her to be suspicious of some of her wily young students. But she doesn't appreciate their good qualities enough. She also micromanages her staff. As she tries to mold young Sister James in her image, she is too hard on the young teacher.
The play, set in 1964, also contains at least one inaccuracy. While Vatican II was certainly topical, the Catholic church wasn't running short of priests in 1964.
But Sister Aloysius, played by Kelly Comstock, is comical in some of the ways she holds on to the past. She doesn't like ballpoint pens, for example. A fan of true fountain pens, she regrets letting students use cartridge pens.
“Doubt, A Parable” has quite a few funny lines. Sister Aloysius tells Sister James to be wary of one of her eighth-graders, who “is headed for trouble. Puberty has gotten hold of him.”
The veteran administrator wasn't pleased with the previous year's Christmas pageant because the girl who played Mary wore lipstick. “I was waiting in the wings for that little Jade,” she says.
Sister Aloysius tells her nemesis, Father Flynn, that nuns trip quite often, partly because of their long habits. With nuns wearing black and white and being prone to falling, “we're more like dominoes than anything else,” she says.
Father Flynn, played by Steve Balsarini, can also be amusing. He shares the kind of medical folklore you used to hear from students long ago. He remembers one of his classmates who had dirty fingernails and bad habits. Because of his poor hygiene, the student later contracted spinal meningitis “and died a horrible death.”
The laughs all but disappear when Sister Aloysius begins zeroing in hard on Father Flynn, whom she suspects of misconduct with a 12-year-old boy. Eventually, when the gloves come off, the atmosphere on the Capitol stage crackles.
The play is a showcase for two actors new to the Capitol stage. Comstock and Merleen Frank are both excellent, the latter as the mother of the boy who is befriended by Father Flynn.
Balsarini does an excellent job of showing both the charismatic and frustrated sides of Father Flynn. Sister James, meanwhile, is an intelligent young woman, which Emily Davis nicely conveys.
The play, directed by James L. Walker, is presented without intermission. Beginning at 7:30 p.m., it finishes at 9:10 p.m. The actors come out afterward to talk about the play.
It's no coincidence that the principal investigating the priest's background is a woman. In the same way that Sister Aloysius has problems with men, the play finds fault with the patriarchal structure of the Catholic church.
While a serious issue, the problem of child abuse is anything but new. Because it's set five decades ago, the play doesn't detail the weaknesses of the Catholic church — such as transferring problem priests from one church to another — and the steps it has taken to correct those problems.
So other than some good acting and snappy lines, why should people attend this play?
That's a good question.
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