Monday, March 14, 2011

"Doubt" is certain to make you think

By Cheryl Thornburg
Perhaps Kirk Lawrence has missed his calling. As Father Brendan Flynn in the Reading Community Players' production of "Doubt," his sermons are both convincing and entertaining. His performance as the priest who has come under suspicion of an inappropriate relationship with a young boy in a 1960s Catholic school is multilayered and will keep audiences guessing – which is what this play is all about. Did he or didn't he?
The subject matter could be ripped from today's headlines, though it is set more than 50 years ago.
Director Robert Bruce McLean has assembled a talented cast that brings this thought-provoking Pulitzer and Tony award-winning play to the Reading theater scene for the first time.
Lawrence's charming Father Flynn is offset by the not-so-likable school principal, Sister Aloysius, capably played by Susan Sneeringer. Her strict, no-nonsense interpretation evokes memories of stern nuns for former parochial school students, but she also evokes laughter at times, a surprising element to a play about such serious subject matter. Her demeanor may be harsh, but Sneeringer also lets us know that her intentions are good. She is truly concerned about the young boy in question.
Julia Parsons provides perfect contrast as the naïve, soft-hearted Sister James, the boy's teacher. Her confusion about who and what to believe as she is drawn into the controversy mirrors that of the audience.
Just when you think you've got things figured out, along comes Andrea Griffith as Mrs. Muller, the boy's mother. Griffith gives this complicated character believabilty, even if her actions don't make sense to you. Her performance adds another dimension to the story and more possibilities.
It is just that complexity of characters that makes John Patrick Shanley's play so compelling. There are many shades of gray in its telling and you may come away still trying to sort it out – and that's just what director McLean and the playwright want. The uncertainty, the discussion following the play is what Shanley himself referred to as the “second act.”
And that “second act” was in full force Sunday afternoon as people left the building. And that's the hallmark of good theater – it makes you think, it stays with you even after the final curtain.

"Doubt" continues through March 20 at the Reading Community Players, 403 N. 11th Street in Reading.
Show times are:
Friday March 18 at 8 p.m.
Saturday, March 19 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, March 20 at 3 p.m.

RCP offers a free shuttle service from the 13th and Green School parking lot to the theater a few blocks away for those who don't want to tackle parking in the city.

Tickets can be purchased at  For more information visit the website or call the theatre box office at (610) 375-9106.


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