Center REP's riveting Doubt will keep you guessing
By Pat Craig


Things were very different in 1964 President Kennedy had been assassinated just months earlier, the Beatles had only recently landed in the United States, and obedience, following regulations and unquestioned authority were still national traits.

Those last three were particularly true at a small parish church school in the Bronx, where Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Lorri Holt) has some severe doubts about her priest, Father Brendan Flynn (Kevin Rolston), over what she sees as an improper relationship between the priest and an eighth-grade boy.

That's where the frightening cat-and-mouse game between the nun and the priest begins in Center Rep's astonishingly well-done production of "Doubt," John Patrick Shanley's 2005 Pulitzer Prize-winner.

At stake is Father Flynn's career, all based on the way Sister Aloysius has interpreted things she's observed, from the way another boy yanked his hand away from the father's grasp, a private meeting between the father and the boy at the rectory, and the fact that a younger nun, Sister James (Laura Morache), smelled liquor on the boy's breath.

Sister Aloysius makes a strong case, particularly to Sister James, even though the boy's mother refused to take part in any testimony against the priest, no matter what the nun alleges (the boy, she says, is happier in his relationship with Father Flynn than he had been without it).

Making things more ticklish is the fact that the boy in question is the school's first black student, and that Father Flynn is a young, good-looking, charismatic character popular with his parishioners.

As you watch the show, each angry exchange between the nun and the priest has you changing your mind about who the real guilty party here is. You whipsaw from believing he did it to being convinced she is railroading him.

And it's done so beautifully, with excellent performances by all, particularly Holt, who creates a memorable character of an old-school nun who hates Christmas pageants because last year the girl who played Mary wore lipstick, and that children should write with fountain pens because anything else makes it too easy, and that Father Flynn's fingernails are too long. Holt's characterization makes the nun a driven woman, relentless and deadly serious in her pursuit against evil in every form.

Rolston's Flynn is the exact opposite, generally happy and smiling, but nearly driven out of his mind by the nun's passionate fight against him. His is a wonderfully wrought characterization of a man who has given his life to the best interests of humanity, yet now finds himself fighting for the very job that lets him do that.

BW Gonzalez, who plays the boy's mother, has a small gem of a part one scene in Sister Aloysius' office, where she verbally unburdens herself with a remarkably angry monologue rebutting the nun's comments.


By Pat Craig


'DOUBT," John Patrick Shanley's ticklish morality play that pits an old nun against a young priest in a battle over ethics and morality, opens Tuesday at Walnut Creek's Lesher Center for the Arts. The Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winner is a tense psychological drama that keeps audiences puzzling over the confrontation between a doctrinaire Sister Aloysius and a progressive priest, Father Flynn, about the nun's suspicions that the priest has had an improper relationship with a young parishioner. Sister Aloysius follows her conscience when she makes her accusations against Father Flynn, which are based on her observations of the priest's actions. On the other hand, the priest has an image of being compassionate, progressive and open-minded and presents the image of just the sort of a role model a young man would need. What drives the drama, however, is the way Shanley keeps increasing the stakes in the battle and continually casts doubt upon each of the characters.


By Sally Hogarty


THE CATHOLIC CHURCH has certainly had its share of scandals with priests across the country accused of inappropriate behavior with children and young adults. The actions of these priests have placed the actions of all priests under scrutiny. But what if a simple act of kindness or affection is just that and not the harbinger of dreadful deeds? It is just this question that torments Sister Aloysius in John Patrick Shanley's taut drama "Doubt," playing through Nov. 22 at Center Rep in Walnut Creek. Skillfully directed by Timothy Near, the riveting drama tells of Father Flynn, a popular young Catholic priest at a parish school. Sister Aloysius, who has seen her share of ethically compromised clergy, runs the school with a stern hand. When a young sister brings her concerns about one of her eighth grade students and Father Flynn to Sister Aloysius, the older nun feels compelled to investigate. Near's wonderful cast creates a tense psychological drama that leaves the audience in doubt as to what really did happen. Lorri Holt plays Aloysius with the toughness necessary without losing sight of her sense of humor and vulnerability. Kevin Rolston presents a charming Father Flynn, always ready to spend a little extra time with a child in need. Completing the cast is Laura Morache, wonderful as the nave sister James, and BW Gonzales, a powerhouse as the mother of the eighth grade student in question. "Doubt is what this drama is meant to induce in audience members," says artistic director Michael Butler. "The uncertainty of what Flynn did or didn't do, and what Aloysius knows or hopes she knows, is what drives Shanley's drama." One thing that is not in doubt is the captivating quality of Center Rep's production. Call 925-943-SHOW