THE STAGING of Doubt: A Parable by Savannah Community Theatre is certainly timely, given recent headlines.
“News broke about that all that stuff that happened in Pennsylvania about a week and a half after we decided to do the show,” producer Tom Coleman says, referring to last year’s report that the predatory activities of over 300 priests had been covered up by the Catholic Church in that state.
“It was eery.”
However, the decision to produce Doubt – an ambiguous character study taking place in a Catholic school in 1960s New York City – came about for a bit more mundane reason.
The play, written by John Patrick Shanley, was one that Coleman’s friend and fellow theatre maven Carl Rosengart had urged Coleman to do. So they agreed to team up together as director and producer to add it to Savannah Community Theatre’s season at Tybee Post Theater.
Doubt won a Tony for Best Play on its Broadway debut in 2005, and garnered Shanley a Pulitzer Przie for Drama. Many know it from the 2008 film adaptation starring Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Viola Davis, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. All four earned Oscar nominations for the film.
The plot is deceptively barebones: School principal Sister Aloysius suspects Father Flynn of improper relations with a male student, and takes action accordingly.
However, Doubt is no process drama or true crime story. It’s a tight, four-character play that relies as much on what’s not said as what is said.
“It’s the idea of the truth vs. what the press and the public say,” explains Coleman. “As far as the two main characters are concerned, it’s about believing what you believe, and the idea of thinking something’s the truth when it might actually just be your opinion of the truth.”
The title of the play is a double meaning, referring to both the accusations against Father Flynn as well as the idea that they might be false.
Indeed, the ambiguity of the script is the entire point.
“We can’t give the audience the answer as to what is true and not true,” says Coleman. “If they can decide either way based on our production, then we’re not doing our job. This is definitely the kind of play where the audience continues to discuss it after they leave the theatre.”
This production boasts a couple of familiar Savannah Community Theatre faces in the lead roles, Malinda Smith as Sister Aloysius Beauvier and David Berlin as Father Brendan Flynn.
Maia Strickland Collins is Sister James, and Jeniqué Williams is Mrs. Muller.