Stoneham Theatre Delivers Powerful ‘DOUBT’ (4.5 Stars)

by Karen Kosko

DOUBT, A Parable – Written by John Patrick Shanley; Directed by Caitlin Lowans; Scenic Design by JiYoung Han. Presented by Stoneham Theatre, 395 Main Street, Stoneham, MA Through September 28.

‘Doubt, A Parable’ is a bold choice for the opening of the 15th season for the Stoneham Theatre, but with accomplished actors Karen MacDonald and Gabriel Kuttner as leads in the production, this fine work is given an effective treatment. Ms. MacDonald plays Sister Aloysius Beauvier, the cynical principal of the St. Nicholas School in the Bronx, whose main conflict is with Fr. Brendan Flynn (played by Kuttner), the personable priest who helps with the school basketball program and works with the altar boys.

I was drawn to the emotional confrontations between the characters of this strong ensemble, especially when they meet one on one.Especially noteworthy are the vignettes between Sister Aloysius and Sister James, (Kathryn Miles) the inexperienced, yet enthusiastic eighth grade teacher who is looking for support and guidance from both of the lead characters.

I also was struck by the scene with Sister Aloysius and Mrs. Muller played by Miranda Craigwell. Their candid and poignant comments also revealed that Sister Aloysius had once been married. The stark and austere set allows you to focus on the importance of this conversation about a character you never actually meet, eighth grade student Donald Muller, and what is at stake for him and his family. As an educator, I listened intently to their exchanges. Both characters were thinking about the “well-being of Donald”, but were coming at it from opposite directions.

The spirited final conflict between Fr. Flynn and his rigid and conservative nemesis, Sister Aloysius, is quite intense. The audience absorbed every passionate word and gesture. The two leads were powerful in their convictions as the decibels soared.

All four characters play off one another well. There is a tender scene between the young teacher and the articulate priest that I appreciated. I am not of the Catholic faith, but with the scandals in the news, I understood the bigger issues and the secrets, denials and lies that were exhibited in this play. “Doubt, a Parable” was written in 2004 and then made into a film in 2008 with the screenplay by John Patrick Shanley. Shanley also directed the film.

So is this a parable…”a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson” or is this play based on a real experience? Nuns, like Sister Aloyisius, were aware of the sins within the patriarchy of the Church, but had little recourse, and in the end, there was still doubt.For more information, go to: