ONE OF the most successful plays of recent years, John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt: A Parable is coming to the Town Hall Theatre for what is sure to be a highlight of the venue’s current season.
With its themes of church power and accusations of clerical abuse, the play is highly topical. Doubt is set in a Bronx Catholic school in 1964, a time when the Roman Catholic Church was beginning to change in the wake of Vatican II.
Sister Aloysius, a school principal, takes matters into her own hands when she suspects the young Fr Flynn of improper relations with one of the school children. The play poses troubling questions:
Is Fr Flynn, the forward-looking priest, inappropriately involved with a 12-year-old boy? Or does that allegation spring from the suspicious mind of Sr Aloysius, an ageing, dour, disciplinarian?
What makes Doubt so fascinating is its many unexpected twists and turns. When you arrive at the end, you have more questions than answers – more doubt than proof.
First staged in 2004, Doubt went on to run for more than 500 performances on Broadway, winning both a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play. In 2008, it was made into a film which starred Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman and was directed by Shanley.
John Patrick Shanley was born in the Bronx in 1950 and has written more than 20 plays, of which Doubt remains the best known. He has also written for film and television, his most notable screen credit being the Oscar-winning screenplay for the hit 1987 romantic comedy, Moonstruck.
As a young boy he attended a Catholic parochial school like the one featured in Doubt and he encountered nuns and clergy very like the individuals in the play.
The play never reveals what actually happened between the priest and the pupil. Shanley was once asked whether he had his own idea of what occurred and he replied: “Let me put it to you this way - you never know what’s going on in somebody else’s head. You never know what’s going on in somebody else’s heart. A lot of time is spent coming up with a conclusion in this story, but it’s like life, you don’t get to know for sure what really happened.
“I feel like the narrative form, because of television to some degree, has boiled down to posing a question and, at the end, answering that question. And that form has become the standard, but it’s a little different than what the experience of life is.
“In life, you don’t get to know everything. You get to know that you think you know, maybe. You receive a lot of information, or a little information, and you reach your conclusions from that.
“Yet, life is sweet, and life is provocative, and life is gripping…and why can’t you have all that in a story? I didn’t want to pull a parlour trick, or a puzzle, that’s not what the story is about. I wanted to have a fierce dialectic and invite the audience to continue the conversation afterwards, about whatever topics they chose to.”
The Town Hall/Decadent Theatre Company production of Doubt is directed by Andrew Flynn. The cast features Diarmuid De Faoite (Fr Flynn ), Brid Ní Neachtain (Sr Aloysius ), and Seona Tully and Jacqueline Boatswain.
Doubt runs from Tuesday February 21 to Saturday 25 at 8pm. Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie