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Gamm’s ‘Doubt’ A First-Rate End to 39th Season

[CREDIT: Cat Lane] Benjamin Grills and Kay asSister Aloysius and Father Flynn in Gamm's production of "Doubt."

[CREDIT: Gamm Theatre] Mary Mullane and Phyllis Kay, as Sister James and Sister Aloysius in Gamm's production of "Doubt."
[CREDIT: Gamm Theatre] Mary Mullane and Phyllis Kay, as Sister James and Sister Aloysius in Gamm’s production of “Doubt.”
[CREDIT: Gamm Theatre] Benjamin Grills and Kay asSister Aloysius and Father Flynn in Gamm's production of "Doubt."
[CREDIT: Gamm Theatre] Benjamin Grills and Kay as Sister Aloysius and Father Flynn in Gamm’s production of “Doubt.”
WARWICK, RI — The Gamm’s ‘Doubt finishes their 39th season with a first-rate production of John Patrick Shanley’s  Tony award winning play at the Warwick theater.

The setting is St. Nicholas, a Catholic church and school in the Bronx, New York, circa 1964. 

A battle of wills between a kind-hearted priest, Father Brendan Flynn, and Sister Aloysius Beauvier is at the center of the story. Flynn has been suspected of improper behavior with an altar boy, Donald, the school’s only black student.

The good-natured but somewhat naïve nun, Sister James, confides in Sister Aloysius, the Principal of the school. Donald had consumed some wine after meeting with Father Flynn and was acting very strangely in class.

Aloysius is appalled and attempts to wring a confession from Father Flynn, who insists he did nothing immoral.

Under the tight direction of Rachel Walshe, the show’s four actors give highly textured characterizations. 

The strength of Shanley’s writing is in not revealing whether or not Flynn is guilty or innocent, but rather, the consequences of launching a witch hunt against someone based on hearsay.

Phyllis Kay, a veteran of Trinity Repertory Company who appeared in 2023’s “The Children” is a fearsome force of nature as the unyielding and judgmental nun. Aloysius warns Sister James about being too lenient with the students and urges her to make them fearful so they will remain obedient.

Mary Mullane makes her Gamm debut as Sister James and sparkles in her scenes with Sister Aloysius. The two have a relationship which starts out respectfully but is tested by the older nun’s determination to rid the school of Father Flynn.  

Benjamin Grills (“The Children’s Hour”) plays Flynn as compassionate and open to exploring new ideas. His choice of “Frosty the Snowman” for the annual Christmas pageant deeply offends Aloysius. 

One of the most powerfully acted scenes in “Doubt” is the climactic confrontation between Flynn and Aloysius. The tension has been steadily building between these characters and it explodes in a firestorm of fury and sadness.

Aloysius has determined Flynn’s guilt and nothing can persuade her otherwise. She has no doubt he behaved inappropriately with Donald. Flynn will not confess to placate her, which makes Aloysius even angrier.

Lynsey Ford (“It’s a Wonderful Life”) is also compelling as Donald’s mother, Mrs. Muller. She meets with Aloysius to discuss Father Flynn’s motivations toward her son. Somewhat surprisingly, the probability of Donald being abused doesn’t seem to bother her. Muller notes that Donald will only be in the school for a few more months and urges Aloysius not to remove Father Flynn.

The strength of Shanley’s writing is in not revealing whether or not Flynn is guilty or innocent, but rather, the consequences of launching a witch hunt against someone based on hearsay.

Aloysius refuses to let doubt impact her thinking and actions. She is a woman with a tremendous amount of anger at her core. The possibility of Flynn being innocent never crosses her mind.

Where the play succeeds is by illuminating the judgments we make of others and the result of not questioning our own morals and beliefs. There is no such thing as absolute certainty. “Doubt” was first produced during a rash of sexual abuse allegations lodged against Catholic priests, many of them proven to have merit. Lives and careers were ruined. The reputation of the Catholic Church has been damaged, perhaps irreparably. The accusations of abuse are still being made, which makes this play as timely and important as ever.

Doubt: A Parable runs through June 2 at the Warwick theater. Gamm Theatre. 1245 Jefferson Boulevard, Warwick. For tickets, call 401-723-4266 or visit www.gammtheatre.org.  

Joe Siegel
Author: Joe Siegel

Joe Siegel is a regular contributing writer for WarwickPost.com. His reporting has appeared in The Sun Chronicle in Attleboro and EDGE.

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