Doubt: a parable- Bluma Appel Theatre

By Dana Lacey

David Storch as Father Flynn

I won’t lie—despite the Oscar buzz, I never bothered to see Doubt on the big screen. It looked boring and weighty and depressing.

Nuns and pedophilia? No thanks.

Yet, somehow, with only 4 cast members and very minimal sets, Bluma Appel Theatre’s production of the Pulitzer Prize winning play was fantastic.

Weighty, yes, with an overdose of hit-you-over the head morality… but also intelligent and funny (never thought I’d find myself laughing at Lent-related humour.)

The story: a nun—the stereotypical rule-wielding ballpoint-pens-are-killing-penmanship nun—becomes increasingly worried that a priest is taking advantage of one of her students “in that way.” (Set in a Catholic school in 1964, the characters are careful to never actually speak the “deed” aloud.)

Problem is there are layers of hierarchy and plenty of rules to discourage the nun from bringing her suspicions to light, so she starts her own investigation—outside the church rules she has so obediently followed.

The friend I brought loved David Storch as the accused Father Flynn—(He’d already fidgeted his way into my heart in Frost/Nixon) At the end of Flynn’s fiery, parable-ridden sermons, I caught her raising her hand and catching herself from giving the sign of the cross—a conditional response after being raised a Catholic herself  “I got lost in the sermons,” she said, “it was exactly how I remember them: funny, intelligent, and full of little stories about how to live your life.”

We both wish we’d read the playbill a little closer—the play was short, but I kept expecting an intermission so I didn’t expect the climax when it happened. But that’s my fault.

I loved Seana Mckenna as Sister Aloysius, she starts out seemingly cruel but you eventually realize she’s fiercely intelligent and wise. She pushes her protégé nun to suppress her kindness, “If you’re looking for reassurance, you will be fooled. If you forget yourself and observe people, you won’t be fooled.”

Whether nuns conjure fear or Whoppi Goldberg (or both), this play will set the record straight.

Doubt runs until May 30, 2009 at the Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front St E)
– Show times are Monday-Saturday at 8 p.m.; matinees Wednesday 1:30 p.m. and Saturday 2 p.m.
– Ticket prices range from $20 to $92.50 with PWYC performances on Monday, and rush seats are available for any performance at 50% off the regular ticket price starting one hour prior to showtime.
-Tickets are available online, by telephone 416-368-3110, or in person at the box office in the St. Lawrence Centre for the Performing Arts

Photograph of David Storch by Cylla von Tiedemann