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Doubt

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John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt, A Parable is that rarest of beasts, a probing and intelligent play that becomes a Broadway hit, wins multiple Tonys and the Pulitzer Prize, tours the country, and is eventually filmed with Meryl Streep. It manages all of this despite the fact that the play revels in its own ambiguity. I believe that nothing would please Shanley more than for every audience to walk out arguing about what they’ve just seen.

The current production at International City Theatre (ICT) proves that when the awards have faded into the background and the stars have moved on to other roles, this play retains its power to deeply affect and disturb an audience. And, yes, all the post-play conversations I heard were loudly debating their thoughts about the characters’ veracity.

Shanley sets his play in a Bronx Catholic school in 1964. Kennedy has been assassinated, and the Vatican is considering changes that will rock the foundation of the Roman Catholic Church. (Cards on the table, would start 1st grade with the Sisters of the Precious Blood the following year.) The world felt on the edge of a precipice, though no one could foresee the seismic shifts that would occur over the next few years.

Sister Aloysius (Eileen T’Kaye) is the principal of the St. Nicholas school, which she rules with an iron hand and a keen eye for any sort of irregularity. As the play begins, she has sensed something “off” with the popular Father Flynn (Michael Polak). Sister Aloysius may be tough and uncompromising, but she will do anything to defend her students, and she believes Father Flynn is a danger.

Sister Aloysius plants a seed a doubt in the mind of Sister James (Erin Anne Williams). She encourages the innocent new teacher to spy on Father Flynn for her. Sister James notices interactions between the priest and the school’s first black student. While there is nothing overtly suspicious about these events, they are proof for Sister Aloysius.

The play becomes a tribunal with Sister Aloysius pressuring Father Flynn, and the priest protesting his innocence of any wrongdoing. Understanding that she is severely limited by the fact that the Church is a man’s world, Sister Aloysius meets with the student’s mother, Mrs. Muller (Tamika Simpkins). She is surprised to find that the mother has her own maternal reasons for avoiding Sister Aloysius’ campaign.

Director caryn desai clearly understands the play’s issues and doesn’t shrink from their complexity. Father Flynn has sermons in which he directly addresses the audience. desai often subtly shifts otherwise realistic blocking to allow Sister Aloysius moments in which it feels like she is addressing us.

It is always a delight to see T’Kaye onstage, and she makes the imperious and intransigent Sister Aloysius ultimately human, if not humane. Polak has the charisma and entitlement to make Father Flynn believable, but he also hints at the troubled man beneath the surface. Williams is sympathetic as the pawn caught in the battle she is only beginning to understand, and Simpkins makes her difficult decision understandable in Shanley’s most striking scene.

Christopher Scott Murillo’s simple, but effective, set combines with Karyn D. Lawrence’s atmospheric lighting to create the shadow and light contrast that is the world of the St. Nicholas School.

ICT’s production is a taut and sobering 90 minutes, which will leave you questioning some of your own certainties.

International City Theatre   August 19 – September 11, 2016    www.InternationalCityTheatre.or

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.