On Broadway, Doubt Weighs Certainty and Fear

By De Santis, Solange | Anglican Journal, September 2005 | Go to article overview

On Broadway, Doubt Weighs Certainty and Fear


De Santis, Solange, Anglican Journal


New York

WINNER OF BOTH the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award, and selling out nightly on Broadway, Doubt presents four unforgettable characters caught in an intriguing detective story, a collision with faith and morals and a journey to the uneasy spaces between certainty and fear.

When we first encounter her, Sister Aloysius, principal of St. Nicholas School in the Bronx is attempting to put some starch into Sister James, a young teacher who naively thinks a boy wouldn't intentionally give himself a bloody nose to get out of class. Both are members of the order of Elizabeth Seton and wear the full black habit and bonnet. As magnificently played by Cherry Jones, Sister Aloysius regards humanity with a somewhat jaundiced attitude, but her stern manner leaves no doubt that her first concern is the students.

In Heather Goldenhersh's portrayal, Sister James stands in quivering awe of Sister Aloysius, but also has enough backbone to defend her friendlier approach to education. She also trusts and respects Sister Aloysius enough to tell her that she thinks a new, charismatic priest at the school, Father Flynn, may have made advances to a boy in her class, Donald Muller, who is the first black child to attend St. Nicholas. Sister Aloysius has also suspected Father Flynn, played with aggressive bonhomie by Brian F. O'Byrne, and she begins to set a trap for him.

Complicating the situation is the fact that "men run everything" that the monsignor is a guileless man who will believe whatever Father Flynn chooses to tell him and that Father Flynn denies anything harmful took place. And, in a riveting scene, the nun's suspicions are turned aside by the boy's mother, played with laser-sharp clarity by Adriane Lenox. Mrs. Muller certainly doesn't like the scenario presented by Sister Aloysius, but she believes that "this educated man with some kindness in him" can help her son in ways his cold, violent father won't.

In this brilliant, tight, 90-minute play, there are no certainties. …

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