Review: Studio Tenn’s ‘Doubt, A Parable’ questions possible bias as sound judgment

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Director Nat McIntyre said of Studio Tenn’s latest production, “Doubt, A Parable," "What is brilliant about this play is that we found people will be so sure so many times, and then each time it will be different. They will know at the end of every scene in their mind what is the truth, and in the next scene, they will know something different."

Studio Tenn’s excellent production of “Doubt, A Parable” received a standing ovation Thursday on opening night at Jamison Hall in the Franklin Factory. The Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning drama was written by John Patrick Shanley.   

The drama opens in the middle of a sermon at St. Nicholas Catholic Church and School in the Bronx, in New York, in 1964. "Doubt can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty," says Father Brendan Flynn, beautifully played by Brent Maddox, a sensitive and caring priest and teacher. He has several bits of sermons during the course of the show that reflect on his own situation due to the persecution by the school principal, Sister Aloysius Beauvier, stunningly played by Marguerite Lowell.

The nun is a strict task-master who strongly believes that art and dance class are a waste of time, and cares little for the need to study history. She believes good teachers should be cold and cunning, instilling fear within the hearts of their students. She also thinks “Frosty the Snowman” is not an appropriate Christmas song. And she believes that Father Flynn has done something terribly inappropriate to one of the young male students, just based mainly on her intuition and a few circumstantial details. She also feels that she can go to any lengths to get the priest fired.

Father Flynn has a parable in one of his sermons that shows his fear of the old nun’s personal attacks. He talks of a woman that comes to him asking if gossip is wrong. “What harm does it do?” He tells her to take a feather pillow to the roof with a knife and gut the pillow. She does, asking him what to do next. “Go collect every feather,” he tells her. “I can’t,” she says, “they went everywhere. … I do not even know where most of them went.” “Exactly,” he answers. “It’s impossible to bring it back.”

Doubt was first performed off Broadway in 2004, then on Broadway, and later in a 2008 film adaptation that starred Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis, all of whom were nominated for Academy Awards for their performance.

Emily Landham, as Sister James, and Aleta Myles, as Mrs. Muller, round out the suburb Studio Tenn cast, with set and costume designs from Studio Tenn’s artistic director, Matt Logan.

Playwright John Patrick Shanley was quoted at the opening of the film version, “We only know that we don't know... anything. But … nobody's willing to say that." One thing seems certain: Father Flynn is concealing something. But who isn't?”                                                                   

 “Doubt” plays until Feb. 25.

 For ticket information, visit www.studiotenn.com.

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