By Edith McCauley
The choice of Doubt, a Parable is a significant step in the growth of Pec Playhouse as a professional theater. The recent production, Twelve Angry Men, also reached a level of dramatic excellence not often seen in community theater. Michael Dice directed both shows, and his ability to draw outstanding performances from his casts is obvious.
The tense drama in 90 minutes keeps the audience almost breathless in their anticipation of the next development. The cast of four outstanding actors are perfectly suited to their roles. Brian Pauley is Father Brendan Flynn, the kind-hearted, gentle priest whose philosophy of kindness and understanding is completely opposite of that of Sister Aloysius, played by Rosemary Million. The principal of a typical Catholic elementary school, her rigid rules leave no room for the least deviation. Many of us have encountered those much like her, and for some of us, our only reaction is that of anger.
Kelly Gray is a newcomer to Pec Playhouse, and as Sister James represents a teacher intent on making the lives of her students one of growth educationally, but also a time for cultural enrichment. Obviously, her goals and those of Sister Aloysius are at complete odds.
A significant event is the entrance of a new student, the first black in the school. He becomes a victim, not of the other students, but of the adults who want to shape him to fit their philosophy. Million manages throughout the entire play to twist events to make it seem that Father Flynn is guilty of abuse.
Pauley, who played the Foreman of the jury in Twelve Angry Men, is amazing. His sermons, delivered under a single spot, make all of us aware of his true feelings and with solemnity and humor, he would be at ease at the altar of any church.
It is Jenniel Wright as Mrs. Muller, the grandmother of the new student, who truly brings a climax to the drama. It is she who defies Sister Aloysius and completely clarifies the entire situation. She understands her grandson and accepts him, while those at the school see him only through their own eyes.
A drama as intense as this may make many audiences uneasy, but as Director Dice says in his notes, “I love theater that requires the audience to think, and this production of Doubt, a Parable will leave you with plenty to think about when your time with us is over.”
For the first time, the director and cast interacted with the audience at the end of the show. The conversation gave all of us some real insights into the entire production. Unable to see the opening because of previous commitments, my review is based on one of the final productions. I could not be more impressed, and I encourage Pec Playhouse to continue making choices that so stimulate our minds and emotions.
The upcoming fall production is Once Upon a Mattress. In a lighter vein, it should attract a wide audience. For more details, call the box office at (815) 239-1210. Once Upon a Mattress runs Sept. 9-25.
June 29-July 5, 2011 issue