Arts and Entertainment

Whidbey Island Center for the Art’s ‘Doubt’ director, cast aim to spark conversation

Megan Besst plays Sister James in John Patrick Shanley
Megan Besst plays Sister James in John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer Prize winning play 'Doubt, A Parable' at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts through April 21.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of WICA

Whidbey Island Center for the Arts presents “Doubt, A Parable” by John Patrick Shanley, which opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 6.

The play is directed by Andrew Grenier, who referred to his director’s notes and a quote by the playwright that explains why this play is less about the church and more about how one views the world.

“Doubt requires more courage than conviction does, and more energy; because conviction is a resting place and doubt is infinite — it is a passionate exercise,” Shanley wrote in 2005.

As the story goes, the school’s principal, Sister Aloysius, a rigidly conservative nun vowed to the order of the Sisters of Charity, insists upon constant vigilance. During a meeting with a younger nun, Sister James, it becomes clear that Aloysius harbors a deep mistrust toward her students, her fellow clergymen and society in general. Naïve and impressionable, James is easily upset by Aloysius’ severe manner and harsh criticism.

When Aloysius learns from Sister James that the priest met one-on-one with Donald Muller, St. Nicholas’ first  African-American student, she jumps to the conclusion that sexual misconduct occurred. In a private meeting purportedly regarding the Christmas pageant, Aloysius, in the presence of Sister James, openly confronts Flynn with her suspicions. He angrily denies wrong-doing, insisting that he was disciplining Donald for drinking altar wine, claiming to have been protecting the boy from harsher punishment. James is relieved by his explanation. Flynn’s next sermon is on the evils of gossip.

Grenier puts the question to his audience.

“I have a small request of all of you,” he writes in his notes.

“Tonight, during intermission, and certainly following this evening’s performance, talk with one another about doubt.  “Doubt” the play, of course, but, perhaps more importantly, the subject itself. Where do you stand? How do you determine your certainty?  Does doubt have a place at the table?”

Grenier said that Shanley’s Pulitzer Prize winning play has been a rewarding challenge for the entire cast.

Kathy Stanley takes the role of Sister Aloysius, no small feat.

“I am drained after every rehearsal,” Stanley said. “I have to find the emotion and energy in myself to truthfully play this powerful, determined woman who is very sure of herself and her situation.

Brian Plebanek plays Flynn.

“The St. Nicholas Catholic Church in the Bronx, in N.Y. in November 1964 is the setting for this story but, it could be a public school, a YMCA, a summer camp or even a family friend or relative’s house,” Plebanek said.

“I made the choice of guilt or innocence, which I have not shared with anyone, nor will I. The audience will have to figure it out.  We hope to bring out a story that will have people talking to each other, perhaps with differing opinions,” he added.

“Shanley strives to have us embrace doubt,” Grenier added.

“In this age of polarizing certainty and avoidance of reasonable discourse, doubt is seen as something to be embraced as opposed to a weakness to be avoided.”

“Doubt” premiered at the Manhattan Theatre Club on Nov. 23, 2004, before moving to Broadway in March of the following year. It instantly became the most celebrated play of the season, taking the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama; best new play awards from the New York Drama Critics’ Circle, the Lucille Lortel Foundation, the Drama League, the Outer Critics Circle, and the Drama Desk; the Obie; and four Tony Awards.

The cast also features Megan Besst and Relda Weagant.

The show plays at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through April 21 and at 2 p.m. Sundays, and at
7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 12. Tickets are $12 to $16. For more information, visit or call 221-8268 or 800-638-7631.



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