This weekend, students at Merrimack College explore uncertainty, ambiguity and tension in a performance of “Doubt: A Parable,” a play by John Patrick Shanley.
“Doubt” takes place in a Catholic school in the Bronx and draws mood and context from the Kennedy assassination and the Civil Rights movement. The central question of the play is the well-being of Donald Muller, the school’s first African American student. Sister Aloysius Beauvier, a conservative nun with a long history at the school, suspects the new, progressive priest, the Rev. Brendan Flynn, of abusing him.
“What is truly wonderful about the play is that you and the person you are sitting next to will likely have very different understandings about what you have just witnessed,” said The Rev. Richard Piatt, director of Merrimack’s production of “Doubt” and an assistant professor in Merrimack’s Department of Visual and Performing Arts.
Almost all of the actors and crew are undergraduates at Merrimack College. The major roles of Flynn and Aloysius are being played by Kevin Welch and Michaela Lonati. Alexandrea Lynch is playing Sister James and Linda Tankersley, a staff member, is playing Mrs. Muller. Erin Beausoleil is an understudy for James at some of the performances.
Prior to the production last night, the playwright, John Patrick Shanley, was scheduled to sit with a panel in a discussion titled “Doubt, Certainty and the Nature of Public Discourse in America,” exploring the play’s themes.
“We are living in a courtroom culture,” Shanley wrote in his preface to the play. “We were living a celebrity culture, but that’s dead. Now we’re only interested in celebrities if they’re in court. We are living in a culture of extreme advocacy, of confrontation, of judgment, and of verdict.”
In a telephone interview in advance of the performances, Shanley said when he wrote “Doubt” the political atmosphere was dangerously polarized.