Doubt: A Parable

by Dick Kerekes
Players by the Sea opened a two weekend run of John Patrick Shanley’s DOUBT; A Parable. It is in their black box theatre that only seats 70, so if you want to see any of the remaining three performances on October 16, 17, l8, I suggest you call 249-0289.
If great acting, an excellent scripts and cutting edge theatre appeal to you, than by all means Doubt is an absolute must see. This was the second time I had seen it and it had even a greater impact on me because of the excellent casting, direction and setting.
Doubt is set in a New York Catholic school/church in l964. The plot concerns a priest that may be carrying on an improper relationship with the only black student in the school. Sister Aloysius, the school principal and a very strict disciplinarian who dislikes ballpoint pens, Christmas pageants and priests who get too friendly with students and parishioners. Award winning actress Robyn Neal is absolutely marvelous in this role, and her tough as nails nun is brilliantly portrayed.
Sister Aloysius dislikes Father Flynn (Michael Lipp), the parish priest. Sister James (Laura Peterson) relates an incident to the principal where Father Flynn had a counseling session with Donald, the 12 year old black student, and Donald emerged from the meeting apparently disturbed and with the smell of alcohol on his breath. Sister Aloysius becomes suspicious and is convinced Father Flynn has behaved inappropriately, and not for the first time.
The principal begins a relentless attack on the priest. The investigation has Donald’s mother Mrs. Muller, (Melody Patterson Jackson) calls to the school and the mother revels an interesting new twist to the story. In the middle of all of this Sister James, wants to support the priest but fears the wrath the principal in the matter.
Well that has set the stage, and that is more plot than I usually give, but the rest will be up to you. Yes, that is right, the conclusions, and whether you have doubt or not is up to you. This play certainly is one you will discuss after it is over and is one that lingers in your thoughts long after the final curtain.
Michael Lipp’s performance is outstanding as Father Flynn and he is the perfect picture of a gregarious outgoing Irish priest, but is he flawed? That you will decide in your own mind. Lipp is well known for the many plays he has directed locally and his award winning performances in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown and Moon Over the Brewery at Theatre Jacksonville.
I always think of music when I see Melody Jackson who is such a fine singer, but she is a dynamite dramatic actress as well and is very convincing mother of a 12 year old who is mixed up with an abusive husband.
I though Laura Peterson was terrific when I saw her in the leading role in Lysistrata at Jacksonville University and she has added another excellent performance to the resume that she is building as she finishes her senior year at JU. She spoke volumes without words with her glances, gestures and sighs.
The set by Joseph Schwarz and David Paul is a small office off to the left and the court yard of an outdoor garden. Using battleship gray paint on everything, gave the impression of a prison (my reaction). Lee Hamby’s costume designs were religiously correct.
It was good to have Barbara Evans back in the director’s chair. Give her a play with some bite and she will be brilliant and has a track record prove it with plays such as Coyote on a Fence, Dead Eye Boy and Last Train to Nibroc. Her casting of this play could not have been any better. Smart lady, pick the best and they will produce the best.
This play is about child abuse, or the potential for child abuse and was much in the news several years ago and one that has certainly brought changes to our society. There is some humor but it is a play that is challenging to the audience and one you can’t help but give your complete attention to and you are amply rewarded for your efforts. Don’t miss this riveting evening of theatre. Players is located in Jacksonville Beach at 106 Sixth Street North.