Can a play provoke thought without influencing the audience?
That is one aim of the cast of “Doubt: A Parable,” by John Patrick Shanley, on stage at CAST. Judie Hanel directs.
“Our goal is to present the information without skewing the perspective of the audience,” said Joe Garoutte, who plays Father Brendan Flynn, a priest accused of a terrible wrong.
Desiree Amyx-Mackintosh portrays the stern Sister Aloysius and Isabel Martin plays Sister James in the story, set at a Catholic school in The Bronx in 1964 on the cusp of the Second Vatican Council.
Sister Aloysius does not approve of teachers who offer friendship and compassion instead of the discipline she feels students need in order to face a difficult world. When she suspects Father Flynn of an unspeakable crime, she is faced with the prospect of charging him with unproved allegations and possibly destroying his position as well as her own.
Also in the cast is Linda Kaplan of White Salmon, who has one scene, a powerful and pivotal one, with Amyx-Mackintosh.
Martin, 17, said, “My theme is that everyone responds differently when put in a situation of doubt and uncertainty.
“One of the most interesting things about James is how she represents the gray area in all of us.
“Nothing is black and white, no matter how much Father Flynn and Sister Aloysius think it is,” Martin said. “There is always a gray in whatever people face.”
Garoutte said, “The message is it’s okay to doubt, and take the time to consider. We jump so quickly as a society to convict people and move from conviction to fact rather than to find out the facts.”
Amyx-Mackintosh called it “a wonderful experience” playing the stern, unforgiving Sister Aloysius, who when told that the students in her school live in fear of her, replies with a satisfied smile and the comment, “Yes, that’s how it works.”
“It’s the best role ever. I enjoy finding the characters who are so very different from myself,” said Amyx-Mackintosh.
Amyx-Mackintosh tried to understand Aloysius’s lack of empathy, even in the face of admitting to Father Flynn that she had at least once committed mortal sin. “Where is your compassion?” Flynn asks her and she responds, “Someplace where you can’t get at it.”
Ultimately, her war with Flynn seems to be a private one that she cannot fully explain, beyond her personal certainty and “experience” with what she sees as the darker side of clergy behavior. In this, Amyx-Mackintosh said, Aloysius manipulates the underling nun, as well as manipulating Flynn “in trying to get Father Flynn to say something” to incriminate himself.
The scenes where she confronts him bring out every aching, rasping piece of emotional friction between the two.
The sister’s blistering certainty, Amyx-Mackintosh points out, is distilled in her statement that “I know. I have experience,” when asked how she is so sure Father Flynn has done wrong.
“Doubt” raises troubling questions, while providing no answers, in a denouement that is both somber and shattering.
Sister Aloysius is certainly no villain, and at the play’s conclusion it feels as if Father Flynn would the one who would pity her the most.