A priest dressed in green and white
stands in the center of his church, giving
a sermon. Above him, the multicolored
glow of the stained glass window shines
upon the reverent and peaceful faces of the
principal of St. Nicholas Catholic school
and the teacher of eighth grade that stands
He looks out into his congregation and
begins. “What do you do when you’re not
This opening line kicks off the beginning
of Forest Robert Theatre’s production of
“Doubt: A Parable,” which opened yesterday,Dec. 2. The opening line is fitting because the play centers on the idea of uncertainty.
“It’s a great play, a great playwright and a tight and smart script,” said director Keli Truckey. “The playwright really wants to challenge the audience to say, ‘maybe you can linger in uncertainty for a little while. As uncomfortable as that place is, that might be a good place to linger. Because, sometimes certainty requires a lot less of you.'”
The play, which is set in the fall of 1964, centers on whether Father Flynn has an improper relationship with one of his students. The principal of the school, Sister Aloysius, is certain that he is guilty of molesting Donald Muller, the first black student of the school, although there is little concrete evidence to support this theory. She embarks on a crusade to get Father Flynn removed from the school so that she can protect the students from him.
“Sister Aloyious is absolutely positive that he’s guilty, and he is certain that he’s innocent and never does the playwright provide an answer, he leaves it always in a gray zone,” said Truckey. “And my position in directing it has always been that I would tell Ben [Filipowicz, who plays Father Flynn], for example, in this scene you need to be able to play this so that if we were able to hit rewind and we know without a doubt that you were guilty. But at the same time, we need to be able to rewind and say, see, he was innocent.”
The play gets even more confused when considering the positions of the other two characters in the play. Sister James, Donald Miller’s teacher, much like the audience, spends much of the play caught in the struggle between Father Flynn and Sister Aloysius.
“It was interesting how she interacts when she’s alone with Father Flynn and when she’s alone with Sister Aloysius, because she’s very easily swayed to either side,” said senior Sarah Frame, who plays Sister James. “It was hard finding the uncertainty. She’s really, really uncertain the whole time.”
Mrs. Muller, Donald’s mother, adds another perspective when she comes in to talk to Sister Aloysius. She is a mother who may not have her son’s best interests at heart and doesn’t understand Sister Aloysius’ efforts to get Father Flynn fired.
Truckey said the best way to approach the play as an audience member is to keep an open mind.
“Ultimately, this isn’t about whether a priest molested a kid in the catholic school system. It’s really more about the title, which is doubt. The playwright calls it “Doubt:A Parable,” said Truckey. “The playwright says it best, and I do have the author’s note in the program. But I think audience members should resist their desire to know, resist their desire to have certainty.”
On whether his character, Father Flynn, is guilty of any wrongdoing:
“We’re playing it so that it could be either way, so the audience can have their own ideas. But the way I’ve been playing it is that he actually didn’t do it. We’ve been playing it that Father Flynn is gay. The whole thing with Donald is that he’s gay as well, as his mother tells us in scene 8. And it’s just a, ‘Hey don’t worry about it, I’m here too. I’m going through the same thing, and that’s all it was. But that still allows for Sister Aloysius hating that. He’s still doing something that’s probably not good for him to be doing, but it’s not molestation of children.”
On the challenges of playing his character:
“I’ve had a lot of trouble finding the balance, finding the moments where people go, ‘Oh my God, he so did it,’ but also finding the moments where people can say, ‘Oh my God, he didn’t do it. So that balance is pretty tough. Also, I’m not Catholic. So getting all those little things has been interesting. There are two scenes in the show that are nothing but me getting up there and giving a sermon to my congregation. And finding the way the priest would stand, the tone of voice, the way he talks to his people, wanting to find a connection and be a part of them, but also finding that feeling of being a priest and being above them.”
On whether her character goes too far:
“Whether or not she goes too far I don’t think is a question. She believes that she is right, and she is willing to do whatever it takes to do what she thinks is justified. She just believes with all of her heart and soul and it’s not until the very end that she starts to doubt what she’s done. The reasoning behind every action she does in the play is because she believes what she’s doing is right.”
On playing Sister Aloysius:
“She’s very set in her ways. She’s been doing the same thing for a very long time now and isn’t really open to much suggestion. So in that way it’s very difficult.”
On working with such a small cast:
“Coming in, I thought we would either get really close or really hate each other. But it turned out good. I’m learning a lot from them, being a freshman and those three being seniors. I think it’s really good getting to know each other a lot better rather than having a cast that’s very large.”
On the challenges playing her character:
“One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is bringing out the emotions she has to have. I never thought of myself as being the same, having the same kind of emotions that she has, but by doing the role I’ve learned that I’m a lot like her emotion-wise and that I have a lot of similarities with my character. So being able to face that and bring it out into the character is one of my hardest tasks as Mrs. Muller.”
On whether she thinks Father Flynn is guilty of any wrongdoing:
“The way the play’s written I personally don’t think he actually did anything wrong, maybe something suspicious and maybe something he’s not supposed to, but I don’t think he actually did anything wrong.”
On working with a small cast versus a large one:
“I’ve never worked with a cast this small before. Sometimes it feels like someone’s missing and they’re going to show up, but they never do. But it’s really cool because you get to know everybody a lot better. You get to a place where you can build on emotion more than lines faster.
It’s really neat I liked it a lot.”