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Review: DOUBT: A PARABLE, A LONG AWAITED QUESTION OF MORALITY RELEVANT NOW MORE THAN EVER at JOBSITE THEATER AT THE STRAZ CENTER

DOUBT: A PARABLE, A LONG AWAITED QUESTION OF MORALITY

Review: DOUBT: A PARABLE, A LONG AWAITED QUESTION OF MORALITY RELEVANT NOW MORE THAN EVER at JOBSITE THEATER AT THE STRAZ CENTER

Webster defines DOUBT as; "to call into question the truth of: to be uncertain of or in doubt about." Webster further applies the following definitions for DOUBT as, " a lack of confidence, an inclination not to believe or accept, as uncertainty of belief or opinion that often interferes with decision making, and finally a deliberate suspension of judgement."

A mere 10 months ago which for myself and the rest of the surrounding arts patrons or the like seems like a lifetime and a completely different world. Mask were nothing we could've imagined and the thought of being sequestered away from a welcomed stranger for safety reasons was strange at best. In March of 2020 just at the height of the novel Coronavirus Pandemic which has changed the face of the world as we know it; I was amongst those patrons of the arts community within Tampa bay looking forward to seeing John Patrick Shanley's DOUBT: A PARABLE being presented by Jobsite Theater at the Straz Center. Then it happened, the world as we knew it shut down. DOUBT was set to open and suddenly shuttered before an audience got to witness its prowess.

Now in the reconfigured, socially-distanced Jaeb Theatre and with proper protocols in place behind the scenes and out front Jobsite was ready to open their doors, and invite us in, and in we came. Sitting at a table safely sequestered with those in my party the familiar warmth, and excitement rushed over me, and as the lights dimmed a welcomed sigh of relief and comfort left my subconscious and erupted audibly as now even for the next 85 minutes it felt like home again.

John Patrick Shanley perfectly stated in a Preface to the play published in 2005, "There is an uneasy time when belief has begun to slip but hipocrisy has yet to take hold, when the consciousness is disturbed but not yet altered. It is the most dangerous, important, and ongoing experience of life. The beginning of change is the moment of Doubt. It is that crucial moment when I renew my humanity or become a lie."

DOUBT is a tour-de force for even the most experienced actor. Not only do you as the performer question your own morality, but you have to find that moment in which you make the audience do the same of themselves. Hands down the company of Jobsite should be lauded here as this is the best production of DOUBT I have ever had the privilege of experiencing. As the staunch and restitute Sister Aloysius Roxanne Fay is a marvel. She commands the stage from the moment she appears. Even speaking through clenched teeth her words pierce through anyone in her path. She is icy, and for me in this instance she is the mirror of morality here. She sees right through even the most tightly bound secrets, until like word vomit you just want to spill out and crumble at her mercy. Small in stature Roxanne's presence is a behemoth of monumental proportions.

As the respondent to the iciness of Sister Aloysius is the always wonderful Emily Belvo in her portrayal of Sister James. She does fine work here, and as Sister James, Belvo is the glue that holds this world together. She notices when her two cents can be added and stays quiet when its not. She's sweet in nature and has a big heart. At the root of her big heart is an even bigger Will Power. When she outright stands up for her beliefs against the ever intimidating Sister Aloysius her moment of triumph is her mirror moment. I've seen Miss Belvo in many productions throughout Tampa and this is by far my favorite performance of hers to date.

David Jenkins as Father Flynn is undeniably in his element and is truly at his very best. From the very moment he steps on stage to deliver his sermon we are swept away by the beautifully eloquent dialogue of Shanley's text. For this portrayal his sermon's are more like a long lost friend, he's comfortable and in that comfort we find believability in his words. It does give me pause when I think about the essence of his character. Is it the actual comfort in the words, or is there something lying below the surface not yet spoken? This is that morality moment for me. What are we left to believe? Jenkin's portrayal here is something to be lauded in every form of the word. The moment when "Tradition" meets "Modern-thinking" and Father Flynn so comfortably puts his feet on the desk is a jaw dropping moment. It's almost like being invited to someone's house, and you put your feet up on the coffee table. There is so much human nature lying in the surface of his character and it makes his character so relatable we do not know who or what to believe. Shanley puts it best in his Preface, "When a man feels unsteady, when he falters, when hard-won knowledge evaporates before his eyes, he's on the verge of growth. The subtle or violent reconciliation of the outer person and the inner core often seems at first like a mistake, like you've gone the wrong way and you're lost. But this is just emotion longing for the familiar. Life happens when the tectonic power of your speechless soul breaks through the dead habits of the mind."

As Mrs. Muller, the mother of the 12 year old boy in which Father Flynn may or may have not molested, Andresia Moseley is unmatched. In 10 minutes of stage time the power she commands is masterful. Having recently experienced the incredible talent of Ms. Moseley in Jobsite's production of Twilight: Los Angeles 1992, I thought I had seen it all. However in this show Mrs. Muller was the heart -stopping gut punch I needed. This one scene blew me out of the theatre with such gusto I was left thinking about her delivery, her moment to moment. You felt her pain, her agony, her worry; she left her soul and every part of her on the stage. I now wish we had somewhat of a continuing story just to find out how her world unfolds.

Four performers, four characters, a Masterclass of work that I would watch again and again. In every line, every non-verbal cue, every icy stare this is the finest acting Tampa Bay has seen in years. Its amazing when you have a truly exceptional script, but even more incredible when you can experience its delivery handed to you by four of the finest actors/actresses in our area.

Rebekah Lazaridis' set works for the space, I wish we had the ability to see it in the intimate nature of the Shimberg, but nonetheless its functionality works here. and Brian Smallheers' lighting lends well to for interior and exterior scenes. Summer Bohnenkamp's Direction is seamless. Its nicely paced, never feeling rushed or lagging and keeps the mind focused on the matter at hand.

The superb team at Jobsite has proved again that with a perfectly placed script even in these most unprecedented times, Theatre is alive and thriving and with their production of DOUBT even more timeless, and relevant as much now as it was when it first premiered. Even while sitting sequestered to a table, and wearing a mask you're so dialed-in you forget about the outside world and dive head-first into the perfectly delivered moment right when we needed it most. The wonderful team at the Straz has made going to the theatre safe, and inviting and with proper protocols in place a most comfortable experience. Hands down will be on the top of my list for best performance of the year, and we will be hard pressed to see a better local production.

John Patrick Shanley's Preface to DOUBT is perfectly stated, "There's a symptom apparent in America right now. It's evident in political talk shows, in entertainment coverage, in artistic criticism of every kind, in religious discussion...Communication has become a contest of wills. Public talking has become obnoxious and insincere. Why? Maybe it's because deep down under the chatter we have come to a place where we know that we don't know....anything......We've got to learn to live with a full measure of uncertainty. There is no last word. That's the silence under the chatter of our time."

DOUBT: A PARABLE is only on stage through January 31st. You can get tickets by visiting strazcenter.org, by calling the box office, or by visiting jobsitetheater.org. Hurry do not miss this show, I doubt many tickets will be left for the final performances as this has proved to be the hottest ticket in town.

Photo Credit: The Straz Center



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