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Doubt



 
Written by John Patridk Shanley in 2005, "Doubt" walked away with more top awards than we can count (even a Pulitzer Prize) for his tense, psychological drama; thus making him one of our country's foremost playwrights.

I've seen "Doubt" at least three times in the years since it opened, and the International City Theatre's production is the most powerful of the four.  (The atmosphere must be so open that the audience itself has "doubt" about the "truth" of the situation.  Consequently, people swing back and forth, from side to side, in their opinion of what actually happened.)  Under caryn desai's insightful direction, the "doubt" is constant; in addition, the small cast is terrific!

All the action is set in St. Nicholas, a Catholic Church and school in the Bronx.  It's 1964, a time when the Church was trying to modernize and become more open-minded.  Father Flynn (Michael Polak is outstanding as a gay priest who befriends the lone Black child in the school), was eager to embrace the new changes; but Sister Aloysius (Eileen T'Kaye' is absolutely brilliant as Sister Aloysius, the principal of the school).  As the Mother Superior, she holds on to the traditional ways of thinking with a vengeance.

It's obvious to everyone in the audience that these opposing authorities will clash.  And "clash" they do thoughout Shanley's drama!  As Sister Aloysius becomes more and more convinced that Father Flynn is having an "inappropriate relationship" with the student, she's determined to have him leave St. Nicholas entirely.  And when shy, young, Sister James (Erin Anne Williams, as one of the boy's teachers), said she smelled liquor on Donald's breath, Sister Aloysius is positive that Father Flynn gave it to him.

The tension developes as Mother Superior calls Donald's parents and sets up an appointment with them; then confronts the priest and asks him to leave of his own accord.  Meanwhile, Sister James has second thoughts about the boy; and even dreds facing her class each day.  We also learn from his mother (Tamika Simpkins) that Donald's father beats his son every night; while during the day at St. Nicholas, Father Flynn is trying to hard to befriend him.

When Flynn finally leaves, under threats by Sister Aloysius to dig up his past, he becomes the leading force in St. Jerome's, a nearby Catholic Church/School in New York City.  For the first time ever, the stern Mother Superior admits with a cry that "I, too, had my doubts."  At which time, the audience leaves the theatre silently in a state of complete shock.

ICT, located in downtown Long Beach, is in the LBPAC, at 330 E. Seaside Way.  It plays Thurs-Sun through Sept. 11. For tickets call (562) 464-4610, or go on-line at www.InternationalCityTheatre.org.