Review-Doubt: A Parable-Sweet and Sour Productions


By: Michael Dorsher

I’m not quite sure how to write this one.  Should I play up  the British angle of Jimmy Saville & Gary Glitter because that would resonate with the old guard of Hong Kongers left behind from the 97 exodus?  Should I lean on the Catholic Church lying angle as the focus of the production, which may also resonate with the audience members for the play?  Would it be more eye catching to discuss a bit of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s early demise in reference to the Hollywood film of the same content?  (Did Meryl receive an Oscar nod for that one?)  Perhaps a series of puns based on the title would be the right way to start out … I think I’d still have my reservations of uncertainty following any of these paths in this review.

This play focuses on just that:  the sense of uncertainty.  Gray Area would have not been as poignant a title but would be apt.  The play navigates nothing but.  Set in a parochial school in the Bronx during the height of the civil rights movement, it follows the suspicions and innocence of those treading in territory out of their depth, out of their reporting lines and out of their control.  It poses a political as well as moral conundrum.  When you’re acting with the best interests of children at heart, to what lengths will you go to preserve the best for them?  Does the Machiavellian “ends justifying the means” apply for all means to an end?  Bring these questions in with you and see if you have any clearer answers by the end.

The production is marvelously done.  The set is Spartan in both lighting and decor, which embodies the nature of a church school of the 60s in addition to highlighting the performers.  The cross created on the floor creates a holy trinity on the stage:  a hallway space in the light, a darkness of the office, and a contrast and question between the two.  It does at times leave the actors' faces in shadow but is not distracting.

Performances are solid all around.  Heather Cooper plays Sister James, an emotional pendulum swaying between those firmer and more experienced in their positions within the church.  Her foil on one side is Father Flynn, played by Rob Archibald.  Flynn embodies what Sister James feels the church should be and what she wants to achieve for herself and her students:  friendly, inspiring, and welcoming within the community.  Vicki Rummun plays Sister Aloysius, who provides the opposing balance for Sister James:  experience, authority, direct lines of reporting and old fashioned to the core.

The dance between these three sets up 90% of the action, tension and perspective within the story.  Mrs. Miller, played by Alexandra Jacobs, sets all that on its head when she adds in her 10%.  She sets a challenge to the experienced Sister Aloysius’s stalwart viewpoint, all inhabiting the gray space between right and wrong, between conviction and concoction, between opportunity and destruction.  If you think you have your answer before she hits the stage, she’ll challenge that with her view on the situation.

The subject matter may make some uncomfortable, but that's intended.  The show runs until June 1st, and based on the size of the first night’s crowd, it is likely to play to full houses every evening.  Get your tickets early for this thriller that sets you adrift within the morality triangle.  A brilliant show is the only certainty herein.

Doubt: A Parable is playing at the HK Rep Blackbox through June 1st. For more information, click here.

Rate This Show: 1 2 3 4 5 Audience Rating: 3.5


No comment at the moment.

Post New Comment