2015-10-15 / Around Town

‘Doubt’ a Sure Thing at Casino Theatre

By James Merolla


Salve Regina University student Alexandra D'Agostino listens intently to director Reggie Phoenix's advice in a pivotal scene from "Doubt" which premieres at the Casino Theatre on Thursday, Oct. 22. 
(Photos by James Merolla) Salve Regina University student Alexandra D'Agostino listens intently to director Reggie Phoenix's advice in a pivotal scene from "Doubt" which premieres at the Casino Theatre on Thursday, Oct. 22. (Photos by James Merolla) “No one knows I’ve done something wrong…Imagine the isolation… For those so affected, only God knows their pain in this secret…. Doubt can be as powerful and as sustained as certainty.”

– From Father Flynn’s opening monologue in “Doubt.”

Salve Regina University opens its theater season with “Doubt: A Parable,” a powerful anti-paean that paints around the scandal that scorched the Catholic Church decades ago and still rocks it today.

You have to shout “kudos” to the Catholic university for staging this edgy magnifying glass in its own theater bed.


Racquel Jean-Louis tackles the role of a damaged boy's mother . Racquel Jean-Louis tackles the role of a damaged boy's mother . Written by John Patrick Shanley, who shares the same notorious surname as perhaps the most infamous of the Catholic pedophile priests of the 1960s and 1970s, “Doubt” raises plenty. The taut, provocative writing, the precise staging, the questions without pure answers, makes “Doubt” – which won both the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award for best play – a suspenseful drama that wrestles with the question of moral certainty.

Surrounded by the turbulence of the 1960s, Bronx Catholic School principal Sister Aloysius is stoic, severe and suspicious, while parish priest Father Flynn remains progressive and popular. When he is suspected of special closeness to a troubled student, the stage is set for a clash of authority, tradition and faith.

This four-character play pits Flynn (played by Hunter Nicolson, a theater chameleon who does a 180-degree turn from his ancient thespian fool in last summer’s “The Fantastiks”) against Sister Aloysius (Alexandra D’Agostino, who grows into the role the more the words churn on stage).

Sister Aloysius also plays against a prism mirror in her opposite, the trusting Sister James, a pure-hearted innocent played with appropriate meekness, wonder and optimism by newcomer Sofia Talbot.

The wounded boy’s mother is the fourth character, introduced in Act Two. Racquel Jean-Louis tackles the small, but important role (played by local wunderkind Viola Davis on film. Davis got her single scene so right she was nominated for an Academy Award). I suspect, from seeing the brief intensity of her work, Jean-Louis will raise her game to a similar level.

“Satisfaction is a vice,” proclaims Sister Aloysius, who deals in absolutes. “Innocent teachers are easily duped,” she adds. She sublimates any trace of feeling by pruning and covering small pine trees that are about to frost under burlap sacks in a nearly abandoned garden.

Would she could do this with a wayward priest who may be a treasured mentor to an abused boy or his second abuser. Shanley’s character, Father Flynn, is morally ambiguous, but one thing is without doubt: This will be one night of riveting theater.

TO GO

WHEN: Thursday, Oct. 22, at 8 p.m.; Friday, Oct. 23, and Saturday, Oct. 24, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Oct. 25, at 2 p.m.

WHERE: Casino Theatre, 10 Freebody St., Newport

COST: $15 general, $10 for seniors and military, $8 for students

MORE INFO: 401-341-2250 or newportcasinotheatre.com

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