BWW Review: DOUBT at Theatre Harrisburg
Theatre Harrisburg's Doubt is a profound, thoughtful and timely night of theater. The horrendous accusations of sexual abuse within the clergy is as relevant today as it was during the show's fictional 1960's Catholic school setting.
If Doubt was only a story of the pursuit of truth and justice regarding whether or not a parish priest molested a student, it would be an important and worthwhile production. However, the themes of the show are relevant in countless current instances when hunches go up against facts. Current events such as the #MeToo movement, recent Supreme Court nominations, "fake news", and even the resurgence of attention regarding the life of Michael Jackson are all indebted to the foundation of this show.
Marcie Warner plays SIster Aloysius, the stern, no-nonsense principal of the school. Aloysius seems to not only lack any sense of joy in life but has a deep resentment for those around her that do. Warner is extremely effective in her complex portrayal with rigid posture, over-enunciation, and persistent scowl. She is a hard character for the audience to like, but much easier to admire in her tenacious pursuit of the truth.
Jeff Luttermoser plays a personable Father Flynn. Conversely, we easily warm up to the progressive priest and seem to empathize with his desire to bond with the students. Of course there is always the question in the back of our heads, whether Father Flynn is so pleasant to make it easier for people to put their guard down and look the other way when questionable decisions arise.
Andrea Stephenson plays Sister James the "third side" in the story's triangle. Stephenson has a natural, fresh look of innocence and makes good use of the character's naivete. Sister James is the natural buffer between the two extremes. She is young and warm like Father Flynn, but subservient and relatively low in status and power, due to her gender, like SIster Aloysius. Stephenson easily and believably straddles the two extremes.
Jess Ross does an phenomenal job in a cameo role as Mrs. Muller, the mother of the student suspected of being the victim of abuse. Ross runs the gamut of emotions and adds another layer of complexity to an already thorny problem.
Director, Kelli Kauterman needs to be recognized for her efforts. Doubt is not exactly an action-oriented play--it is very verbal. Yet, her directing never lags and keeps the audience consistently and fully involved throughout. Part of her recognition involves both finding and hitting the embedded humor within the piece. Such a heavy topic requires a bit of comic relief whenever possible. Kauterman successfully plays these up such as Sister Aloysius's assertion that the Christmas song "Frosty the Snowman" might as well be the Devil's anthem.
Don't expect the story to come to a tidy resolution. In fact, being open to interpretation is one of the script's biggest strengths. I recently read that the reason the show runs without intermission is that the first act occurs in the theater while act two occurs among the discussions of the audience members on the ride home.
Doubt plays now through March 17. Tickets and more information can be found on the website. Don't miss this important and powerful show.