The latest play the UC Follies theatre troupe put on, Doubt, has a particularly taboo plotline. It’s based on the stage 2004 stage play (which in 2008 became a film starring Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, and Philip Seymour Hoffman), and the small cast and unorthodox setting leave the audience with an experience they won’t soon forget.
For those who haven’t seen the film adaptation, Doubt is set in a Catholic school in 1964 in Bronx, New York. The principal of this school, a nun named Sister Aloysius, develops a strong suspicion that Father Flynn has an inappropriate relationship with the first male black student ever to attend the school. Sister Aloysius brings these concerns to the timid Sister James and together they confront Father about his motives.
Under the direction of Emily Dix, Doubt was not performed in a typical theatre on the St. George campus. Rather, it was held in the East Hall of University College, a building immediately notable for its architecture and monastic atmosphere. The lack of space for a large audience immediately draws the crowd into the story. When Father Flynn (portrayed by Jordan Gray) recites his sermons, he recites them to the audience as if they were his congregation.
It should be noted how wise the choice was to perform this play in University College. Chandeliers hung from the ceilings and there was a small balcony at the back of the room where the choir sang during set changes. And considering there were very few set changes needed, the building kept the atmosphere of a church in the 1960s. A table moved here, a desk placed there. All in all, the building was a perfect choice for Doubt.
The play and film had few breakout characters outside of the core cast, and the cast of the UC Follies production was, in turn, very small. Four students stole the show with their brilliant performances. Gray as Father Flynn had a distrustful air of confidence about him throughout the entire play, echoing Hoffman’s portrayal of Father Flynn in the film. Gray had one scene in which he and Sister Aloysius (portrayed by Anne Shepherd) have an alarmingly loud argument; Gray’s voice carried quite well in the small room, silencing the audience with his yelling.
Much can be said for Karen Simpson as well, who played the young boy’s mother, Mrs. Muller. With only one scene of about 15 minutes, Simpson did a remarkable job of making herself memorable. For how well she captured the pleading and desperation of Mrs. Muller, Simpson is a name to be remembered. Maja Rakocevic, who played the naïve Sister James, also did quite well in her performance. Rakocevic played the young and trusting Sister James in a good contrast with Sister Aloysius and her cold, stern mindset. The constant wringing of hands and looking down when something troubled her added to the naïveté and nervousness of Sister James and was very well done on Rakocevic’s part.
Shepherd did a fantastic job as Sister Aloysius with her dry humour and relentlessness in her efforts to bring down the man who could ruin the reputation of the school—particularly in the stronger scenes when she argues with Flynn or Mrs. Muller. Shepherd shone in her portrayal of Sister Aloysius and added to the overall likeness of the play to the film version.
All in all, Doubt was well performed and directed, albeit with a very taboo plotline that could turn off audiences who are uneasy about the topic. But Dix was careful not to disclose too much information on the severity of such things, and the actors left things to the imagination of the audience.