THUNDER BAY, ON ---- March 8, 2015 ------Thunder Bay’s Mario Crudo is once again bringing some of the greatest contemporary literature alive on stage at Magnus Theatre. Set in a Catholic Church in the Bronx N.Y of the early 60’s “Doubt” is both a parable as well as a story of a Church in transition. It was a change that fundamentally affected most aspects of the Church, under their new Pope; services were now to be conducted in the vernacular, rather than in Latin. The rigorous Christian disciplines as practiced by the more conservative monastery orders were right at home with a Latin service, and much of their approach to the secular influences in the world was to show their faith and dedication by being “cruel to be kind”. I have known people like Sister Aloysius Beauvier, as a youth my father insisted that I be given instruction at the piano. Living in Terrace Bay in the early 60’s the only place to get piano lessons was at the “Sister’s “place in nearby Schreiber. I am not too certain if they were good piano teachers or not but they were excellent at practicing the cruel to be kind doctrine.
Sister Aloysius was able to create a perfectly disciplined world for herself in the school where she was principal. She was constantly prepared to fend off any influence that would change her perfect school. Change is inevitable and into this school came the first black student, a boy of 12 who desperately needed a male role model in his life. The story is centred on the boy, although it is not about him at all. Also new to the school is a gifted younger teacher Sister James, and the new Pastor of the adjoining Church Father, Brendon Flynn. Neither of these people shares the same background as Aloysius and come from a more progressive part of the Church, emissaries of the new Pope’s vision for the modern Church.
Shortly after the play begins, Father Flynn delivers a sermon on Gossip and false testimony. Sadly I have not heard many sermons of this quality in recent years, and having heard his sermon I felt as though I have gone back in time when Churches meant so much more to the average family. This is after all a Pulitzer prize winning script so it is not surprising that all aspects of this story are well told. Later on the Father delivers a second sermon about the evils of intolerance. This was after a meeting with Aloysius.
Sister Aloysius despises the new pastor and she coerces the younger sister James to be more observant of her students and the influence Father Flynn has over them. She is looking for evidence and proof for her suspicions about the man.
The story unfolds in a remarkable way and like any good mystery; there is no certainty as to who was right or wrong. The damage of gossip and suspicions in the end had left those who remained at the school deeply conflicted. For the first time Sister Aloysius is not entirely certain of her judgement of people and she wonders if she did the right thing at all.
The production on stage is masterfully produced. Great set, and lighting, the costumes and period telephone were all spot on. This play is not an entertainment, but it is a stage event that patrons of Magnus will not want to miss. It is right for a Theatre to comment on morals and modern living, and presenting this play will give many of us in the secular world pause to think. As I have said, I know people like this, my father as a youth beat it into me that “if you cannot say anything good about a person, then say nothing at all...” That youthful admonishment and the parable this play represents have given me cause for reflection.
When you see this play, you will take sides with the characters on stage and you will be caught up in the story and will witness the devastating effects of gossip and intolerance can have in our daily lives. A story with all of these elements can be as compelling and convincing as they come, there is motive, passion and conviction for all parts and since no one is perfect there will be at least a part of this parable that is about you.
Great production; don’t miss it. “Doubt” a parable by John Patrick Shanley will play at Magnus until March 21st. Call the box office at 345 5552 for your ticket and more information.