There’s little ‘Doubt’ Skyline play addresses big ideas
November 22, 2011
By Tom Corrigan
Thematically, it’s a big play filled with moral questions and, as the name implies, deliberate moral and thematic ambiguities.
In terms of production, it’s tiny, with only four actors. For this production, the sets are minimal as well, consisting of a lone desk or a bench.
It’s being staged in Skyline High School’s Delphi Theater, its black box or experimental theater. The audience sits very close to the stage. And it’s all of these factors that are turning the school’s production of John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt: A Parable” into a noteworthy experience for the students involved.
“They are all under the microscope when they are onstage,” said the play’s director, Skyline drama teacher James Henderson.
“There’s a lot more focus on the acting,” said senior Alexander Beuchat, 18, adding the audience will be able see every move each actor makes.
Lucillia Nkinsi, 14, a freshman, agreed. She said unlike bigger productions — such as “Grease,” the school’s next big musical — there is simply no place to hide onstage and it’s very tough to cover up a mistake. When you are onstage during the smaller play, she added, all eyes are on you.
A Pulitzer Prize winner set in the early 1960s, “Doubt” is the story of a stern Catholic nun in charge of a parish school who begins to think there might be something unhealthy about the relationship between the parish priest, Father Flynn, and a young, male student who is never seen in the play. There are also notes of racial tension in the story, as the boy is the only black student at the school.
Beuchat, the lone male in the cast, plays Father Flynn, while the role of the head nun, Sister Aloysius, went to Marie Guenette, a junior, 16.
If you go
Seemingly a regular on Skyline’s stages, Guenette has a lead role in the upcoming “Grease.” She said it’s actually not that hard to switch from a light and breezy musical to the more heavy and thematic “Doubt.” In each case, Guenette noted, she is playing a role, she is acting.
“It’s fun to do a whole variety of things,” said Ana Palacios, 16 and a junior, who, like Guenette, also has a part in the upcoming “Grease.” In “Doubt,” she plays a young nun who may be a bit more naïve than Sister Aloysius.
Nkinsi plays the mother of the boy who may or may not have received unhealthy attentions from Father Flynn. When the mother visits the school, she states she wants her son to graduate, that she isn’t concerned about anything else. Henderson said that scene and the mother’s attitude “kind of makes my skin crawl.”
“It’s jarring,” he said.
Henderson added he was lucky enough to have seen “Doubt” on Broadway and didn’t know a lot about the story going in. He said he feels the themes and story are still very relevant and he decided not to back away from the play despite any controversy it might cause. Beuchat said he has very strong Catholic beliefs and like his teacher thinks the play is relevant, adding he does not find it offensive in any way.
Incidentally, as Beuchat is Catholic, one assumes his parents are as well. What do they think of the play?
“I don’t know,” Beuchat said, stating he hadn’t told them anything about it. In any case, Beuchat said he is really enjoying his role in the production.
“Father Flynn can be so very different from scene to scene,” he said. “He has several facets.”
“I love these characters,” Palacios said. “They have so much depth.”
“I believe we should do a wide variety of plays,” Henderson said. “And I kind of like to push the envelope a bit.”
Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.