Kris Nelson and Sally Wingert star in Ten Thousand Things’ production of “Doubt: A Parable” at Open Book through March 6
It takes a lot of nerve to stage a play that got rave reviews as a movie starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman. But Ten Thousand Things, under the direction of Peter Rothstein, did just that. The result? According to these reviews, there’s no “doubt” about the quality of this production. Read on for excerpts, and click on the links to read the full reviews.
The competing forces of law and grace, modernity and tradition collide with intense personal clarity in “Doubt,” John Patrick Shanley’s 2005 Pulitzer winner. Two sharply drawn characters — each working out a crisis of faith — spar for the souls of those around them. In the wreckage, no one survives whole.
Ten Thousand Things’ production of “Doubt,” directed by Peter Rothstein, is one of those rare dramas perfectly wrought in all its pieces…
…We leave not certain of the truth — the disturbing reaction that Shanley intended.
Rothstein’s production breathes with confidence, clearly expressing the metaphoric stakes in each actor. Simply put, he knows this play. It is a tightly etched, 75-minute parable on how we live in relationship with each other and ourselves. It should absolutely be seen.
At the heart of the play, and director Peter Rothstein’s sizzling production, is Sister Aloysius. Wingert’s fierce performance is a must-see; she rails against the forces conspiring against her with the fury of Ahab, easy though it would be to accept the world’s assurances that the killer whale she pursues is a figment of her imagination. Nelson and Froiland are also effective, though those who have seen the film will miss the nuance Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams brought to their roles. In contrast to Hoffman’s persistently malevolent performance, Nelson portrays Father Flynn as a cheerful man full of bouyant bonhomie; when he cracks, he falls all the harder.
Williams gets only one scene, but it’s a tour de force that had the inmates cheering. Shanley puts her character in a thick knot from which there is no easy escape, and Williams and Wingert make the most of their intense face-off, in which they debate how–or whether–to fight their way out of the cage that they and Donald are trapped in together.
The play leaves room for argument as to whether or not Father Flynn is innocent, but it’s always been my impression that Shanley tips the scales in favor of Aloysius, and as Wingert pointed out in a post-performance discussion, in wake of the revelation that child abuse was shockingly widespread in the Catholic Church at that time, history is on her side. Still, when asked for a show of hands, the majority of the inmates at Saturday’s performance indicated a belief that Alosyius was mistaken in her accusations regarding the priest.
On the face of it, “Doubt” is a zeitgeist-y play that turns on the question of whether a priest sexually exploited a 12-year-old altar boy. But it’s not necessary to dig too deeply into John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play to find the more central conflict of flesh and blood versus ideas and convictions brought to thought-provoking life in Ten Thousand Things Theater’s production.
Director Peter Rothstein’s staging takes advantage of the up-close, lights-up, fourth-wall-shattering style for which Ten Thousand Things productions are known. The play is set in 1964, the sunrise of the reforms in the Roman Catholic Church by the Second Vatican Council. At its beginning, as the charismatic Father Flynn is homilizing, the other three characters of the play sit with the audience, effectively making them the congregation.
The story balances on a delicate emotional fulcrum, and Rothstein’s take on the script tests that balance. He’s less equivocal on the did-he-or-didn’t-he question than other productions I’ve seen. This has the effect of making the play even more about its central character, Sister Aloysius, who has only circumstantial evidence and her certitude to back up her concerns. Aloysius’ epiphany in the show’s final moments, then, takes on an entirely different flavor; one I hadn’t previously considered.
Wingert’s deeply grounded portrayal of Sister Aloysius commands attention and respect; you may or may not like the character at the play’s end, but Wingert’s crystalline performance makes certain you understand her. Kris Nelson is as compelling as Father Flynn, the object of Aloysius’ suspicion. There’s nothing threatening about his Father Flynn, but there’s something about his hale nature that rings a half-tone flat, and that razor’s edge of innocuousness gives the character a captivating nuance.
So, have you seen “Doubt?” If so, what did you think? Share your review in the comments section.