Religion is one of those controversial topics that tends to render doubt from many skeptics. Fairfield students took this idea to a new level in Theatre Fairfield’s latest production, John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt: A Parable.”
The cast and crew arrived on campus to begin rehearsing for the show during winter break. This was part of The Independent Project where the show is completely student-run and produced. The Jamie A. Hulley Arts Foundation helped fund the show. Although the production only had four cast members, the performers were able to fill the space with their character’s personalities.
The story tells the events that occur at St. Nicholas Church and School, broken up into nine “episodes,” during the late fall and early winter of 1964. The school is currently being run by the strict Sister Aloysius, played by Shannon Kelley ‘19. She rules the school with an iron fist, holding her teachers, students and even Fr. Flynn, played by Liam Cahill ‘18, to a high moral standard.
The main conflict of the performance is between Sr. Aloysius and Fr. Flynn. Fr. Flynn wants the school to be more progressive and have the church seen as a member of the congregation’s family instead of “emissaries of Rome.” The conflict escalates when Sr. Aloysius believes Fr. Flynn to have made sexual advances on Donald Muller, a student in Sr. James’ class. Sr. James, the innocent and trusting eighth grade teacher was played by Maddie Craig ‘19. The situation heightens to the point where Sr. Aloysius has to meet with Donald’s mother, played by Elliot Harrell ‘20.
Doubt, as the namesake of the play, is a central theme throughout the play. Characters such as Fr. Flynn, Sr. Aloysius and Sr. James start to doubt their faith. However, the characters are not the only ones who doubt in the show. The audience is meant to doubt as well. Sr. Aloysius and Fr. Flynn both try and sway the audience to believe their own side of the story. By the end of the show it is not fully revealed whether Fr. Flynn is guilty or not. After the show, cast members asked the audience if they thought that Fr. Flynn harmed the boy in some way. Members of the audience were split on whether Fr. Flynn was guilty or not. “I don’t think that he did anything to this specific kid in the story, but I do think that he did it in the past. He was scared enough of his past to leave. He left before his reputation could be ruined,” said Alyson DeRosa ‘19
The small cast size was made up for in the talent all four brought to the production. Cahill did an excellent job as Fr. Flynn, swaying the audience back to thinking he was innocent of any wrongdoing after Sr. Aloysius tries to get him to confess. The episodes that were the most ingenuitive were of Fr. Flynn’s sermons. His sermons take up two of the nine “episodes” and are relatively short compared to the others. But in these short monologues, Cahill excelled as Fr. Flynn. Cahill speaks as if he’s been giving sermons for years, delivering them to the audience as if they were his congregation.This was a good was of interacting with the audience.
Kelley was able to instill a fear for her character into the audience. She was able to uphold her character’s sternness throughout the performance. Her holding of such a rigid demeanor through the show is exemplary of her excellent acting.
A unique quality about the play as compared to Theatre Fairfield’s other performances was that all ticket proceeds from “Doubt: A Parable” were donated directly to the Catholic Charities of Fairfield County.
Despite lackluster advertising in the weeks before the show, many of the Pepsico Theatre’s seats were full during the performances. Most advertising for the show was done through the cast and crew members’ social media accounts. This lack in initial advertising for the show did not have a negative impact on the final outcome of the performance.
Theater Fairfield did an excellent job on the production and all the actors were superb in their performances.