Doubt | A Parable (Repertory Theatre of St. Louis)

doubtThe one-and-one-half-hour production seemed to fly by as Shanley's story unfolded at a quick pace. His tender moments were genuine without being overly sappy and the dialogue was crisp and engaging.

 

Written by John Patrick Shanley; directed by Doug Hughes
Presented by The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis at The Fabulous Fox
Through February 25, 2007

The Repertory Theater of St. Louis brings John Patrick Shanley's 2005 Tony award-winning play, Doubt, to the Fabulous Fox Theatre. The story—which takes place at a parochial school in the Bronx during the early '60s—highlights several issues, including "old school" religion vs. "new school" religion, racial integration, and child molestation.

Sister Aloysius (Darrie Lawrence) is an "old school" type of nun who runs her school with an iron fist. Sister James (Lisa Joyce) informs Sister Aloysius that one of her students—the first African American student at the school—has been acting odd ever since his "private" meeting with Father Flynn (Chris McGarry). Suspecting Father Flynn of foul play, Sister Aloysius turns into Sister Nancy Drew and attempts to get to the bottom of the mystery regardless of the consequences.

You might be thinking to yourself, "Jim, you must have made a mistake; Cherry Jones plays Sister Aloysius, not Darrie Lawrence." And for the past 500 performances, you would be right. However, on this night, Ms. Jones was under the weather so her understudy, Ms. Lawrence, had to step in and perform. After hearing dozens of people whine and complain about Jones not performing, I almost started to tell people to build a bridge and get over themselves, but then I thought they were right to be disappointed. Jones had made this play pretty legendary, so I let the whiners whine and the complainers complain.

Much to the audience's surprise, Lawrence was pretty phenomenal in the lead role. "Domineering" would be the best way to describe Lawrence's performance. Commanding the stage with an iron fist and a strong physical presence allowed Lawrence to win over the angry crowd. Still, she wasn't the only one to turn in an impressive performance. Both McGarry and Joyce did equally well in helping to give life to this particularly dark production. This may have been one of the first times Lawrence has stepped into this production, but the three main roles appeared as if they have been doing this together for years.

Technically speaking, special mention should go to John Lee Beatty for his brilliant scenic design. His set transitions were seamless and his attention to detail was superb. The real charm of this production is due to Shanley creating "real" characters with his script. Each of the lead roles was well thought out and brilliantly written. The one-and-one-half-hour production seemed to fly by as Shanley's story unfolded at a quick pace. His tender moments were genuine without being overly sappy and the dialogue was crisp and engaging. Even without Jones in the lead role, Doubt has to be one the best plays I have seen hit a St. Louis stage in some time. You should have no doubts about calling to reserve your tickets for this very limited engagement. | Jim Campbell

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