Thursday, June 11, 2015

theatre review - DOUBT - Mesa Encore Theatre - June 7, 2015

Shari Watts and Anne-Lise Koyabe
photo: Pam Pershing

"John Patrick Shanley's 2005 Pulitzer Prize-winning play Doubt has...superb characters with crackerjack dialogue and...every element necessary to deliver a hit drama, especially if your cast is up to the challenges of the script, which is just about perfect. Mesa Encore Theatre's production succeeds on all counts....This cautionary tale about the impact of gossip...shows two sides to a story set in 1964 at a parochial school in the Bronx..When head principal Sister Aloysius learns from novice Sister James that the charismatic Father Flynn has had private meetings and conversations with a young student named Donald Miller, she is convinced that he is molesting Donald. Yet Flynn claims he has done nothing wrong and is only protecting the boy, as Miller is the sole African-American student at the school and is isolated due to his race...Shanley's script will most likely have you not only changing your mind more than once during the show, but also discussing and debating it on your ride home as well....Mesa Encore Theatre has found an exceptionally gifted cast to play the four parts in the play, led by Shari Watts as Sister Aloysius...shows us how Aloysius' firm, steadfast beliefs are possibly behind not only her stilted view of the world but also her unrelenting determination to take Flynn down, even if she has no actual proof of her accusations. But what if she is right? Watts perfectly shows us how Aloysius is trying to protect the children while also making us realize that perhaps she is really just trying to protect her own beliefs in the Catholic religion. This is the fourth show I've seen Watts in over the past 18 months and she never fails to portray the realism behind the character. Her Aloysius is perfect....Marshall Glass' charisma, good looks and measured, easy delivery of Flynn's lines allows us, at first, to side with him. ..Glass' ability to win us over, numerous times throughout the play, works perfectly in how Shanley has crafted his play as a battle, with the audience constantly switching from side to side. Like Watts, Glass is delivering an excellent performance....In the smaller role of Sister James, Jamie Hendricks has the appropriate mousy disposition of the young nun, who is just trying to do what's right for her students...As Mrs. Muller, Anne-Lise Koyabe is delivering a heartbreaking take on this troubled mother....Kent Burnham has directed a production that will have you pondering the ideas of truth and consequences. He has a solid understanding of the material and elicits not only excellent performances from his cast but also an overall winning production. ..."What do you do when you are not sure?" is a question that Flynn poses in his first sermon in the play. It is something we can all take as a lesson when considering a subject that isn't cut and dried, with an answer that is beyond the shadow of a doubt. Mesa Encore Theatre's Doubt smolders, and Shanley's philosophical battle of the wills is not to be missed." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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