Some ‘Doubt’ in Happy Valley

July 25, 2013 at 3:39 pm 1 comment


Penn State Centre Stage selected a thought-provoking play as part of its summer offerings, on a topic that might strike a familiar chord with some Penn Staters.

Doubt: A Parable, running now through Aug. 1, is the Pulitzer Prize-winning tale of a Catholic priest accused of molesting a young boy.

You may have seen the film version starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman back in 2008, or the 2005 Broadway play, which earned not only a Pulitzer but also the Tony Award for Best Play. It’s the tale of a nun who runs a parish school and who suspects the parish priest of being a pedophile. But more than that, it’s a story about the dangers of being too sure about your opinions.

That was my take on it, anyway, when I watched and photographed a dress rehearsal of Doubt on Tuesday night. The nun, Sister Aloysius, starts off with just a suspicion about Father Flynn, but over the course of the play becomes absolutely convinced that he is indeed behaving inappropriately. And it’s that unshakeable certainty that creates all of the play’s conflict—for Father Flynn, for the younger nun Sister James, for the mother of the young boy, and ultimately for Sister Aloysius herself.

Jane Ridley, who has been a gem on the School of Theatre faculty for years, plays the role of Sister Aloysius to perfection. Ridley is about to retire, so this is a farewell performance for her. The other cast members have Penn State ties as well: Kevin Murphy ’07g is Father Flynn; recent theatre grad Carly Evan Hughes ’13 is the young nun, Sister James; and third-year MFA student Stori Ayers plays the mother of the young male student who may or may not have been molested.

For being such a compact little play—it has just those four characters and runs 90 minutes—Doubt is thoroughly absorbing and provocative. And that’s why director Jim Wise, a School of Theatre professor, says it’s so relevant to the State College community. “Recent events in Happy Valley have created a number of doubts and uncertainties in many people’s minds,” Wise writes in the playbill. “It is my hope that our production of Doubt not only encourages discussion and debate about the play itself, but also carries over into our audience’s public and private lives.”

Doubt runs for a total of nine days—through Aug. 3—at the Penn State Downtown Theatre Center on South Allen Street, with matinees this Saturday and next. You can order tickets online.

Below are some of the images I shot at the dress rehearsal.

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Tina Hay, editor

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