Carpenter Square Theatre has brought together the exactly right combination of script and cast in an excellent production of John Patrick Shanley's "Doubt: A Parable." The script is almost foolproof, and one can see why the production won the 2005 Pulitzer prize for drama and best play Tony.
"Doubt" is set in St. Nicholas, a Catholic school in the Bronx, in 1964. It is a time of upheaval in the Catholic Church, and Sister Aloysius Beauvier, principal of St. Nicholas, is definitely old-school. She sees the encroaching replacement of fountain pens by ballpoint pens as a sign of the decline of civilization. She admonishes history teacher Sister James about idealizing FDR, and to look to the saints for inspiration. And she hectors Sister James to give students their history "without putting sugar all over it."
So Sister Aloysius (Rhonda Clark in a winning performance) has inherent doubts about the new young priest, Father Brendan Flynn (John Brumley), and his ideas about "progressive education and a welcoming church." Father Flynn is the personification of the changes that Sister Aloysius abhors.
When Sister James (Alixandra Golden) confides to Sister Aloysius that she suspects Father Flynn of molesting a 12-year-old student. Sister Aloysius sees her opportunity to bring down Father Flynn and delay the inevitable and inexorable modernization of the church, or at least her small part of it. Thus begins a treacherous contest of wills between Sister Aloysius and Father Flynn, with Sister James torn between a seemingly immovable object and an unstoppable force.
Carpenter Square's production is well-directed by Michael Payne on his ecclesiastically inspired set design. Steven Gillmore even shows rare restraint in his effective lighting design.
The point of "Doubt" is that people who see the world as right or wrong, black or white, with us or against us, believe in a lie. The world is more complex than that and is shaded with gray. To deny that fact is ignorance, and ignorance is bane to human existence.