Thursday, November 3, 2022

Excellent 'doubts' are sown in Vienna

From left, Gayle Nichols-Grimes as Sister Aloysius and Danielle Comer as Sister James in Vienna Theatre Company's Doubt: A Parable/Photo by Matthew Randall

From left, Danielle Comer as Sister James, Jacquel R. Tomlin as Mrs. Muller, Bruce Alan Rauscher as Father Flynn and 
Gayle Nichols-Grimes as Sister Aloysius in Vienna Theatre Company's Doubt: A Parable/Photo by Matthew Randall

This is about a nasty nun on a tirade to get rid of a priest, all because of her suspicions.

With prescient timing, the Vienna Theatre Company presents Doubt: A Parable about the spoils of innuendo and rumor.  It doesn't take much to apply the message to the 
inhospitable environment in today's world.

One must ask: What role does doubt play in today's society?

"They look smug like they have a secret," says a nun, castigating even poor old Frosty the Snowman who can't escape the malicious net. 

From the beginning, Father Flynn (Bruce Alan Rauscher) delivers a convincing message from the pulpit, an introduction to serious matter.  

With her strong performance and from her f
irst appearance on the stage, Gayle Nichols-Grimes as Sister Aloysius is immediately able to stir audience wrath.  We can only guess at her background and insecurities to want to take down a priest and create more madness in her world. 

Enter Sister Aloysius's weak sister, Sister James (Danielle Comer) who offers her doubts about actions of the father towards a student, the only black pupil at the parochial school where Sister Aloysius is principal. 

And here comes the student's mother,  Mrs. Muller (Jacquel R. Tomlin), another weakling, at least, at first.

Momentum builds as the story advances; battle lines are drawn
. The roles call for each actor to gain force and they succeed, amidst powerful silences which increase the tension.

Who would you suppose is the victor at the end?  It's left to the audience to ponder its own doubts and insecurities.

More than once during the performance I was reminded of the Salem Witch Trials and suspicion in the late 17th century which killed 19 persons.

That a large attendance surrendered a beautiful Sunday afternoon for a darkened hall of serious theatre in Vienna was surprising and worth it.

Applause to Tom Epps (co-producer with Laura Fargotstein) and his lighting, always right on target to the second.

Beverley Benda's costumes are appropriate, mostly all in black (surprise!) save Mrs. Muller's lovely hat and lavender outfit which contrast like springtime flowers on this stage of unhappy people.

The nuns' caps brought to mind the Salem Witch Trials' costumery which may match contemporary Catholic costumery for the little I know.

Director Joanna Henry has the performers use their hands to wring, wither, grasp and point to emphasize their words, and they work!

Steve Ross and Helen Bard-Sobola have designed 
Sister Aloysius's office in harsh design and properties, a stark reminder of her unforgiving character. Her domicile counterbalances the pleasant garden which lies nearby and serves as a place of reflection.

The experience of live performance becomes more enjoyable with Alan Wray's sounds of an approaching storm, bells, and children laughing, in hallways, and in the gymnasium.

I look forward to a reversal of the play when the priest is the antagonist and the nun, the moral superior. Is it always the woman's fault? Beginning with the Garden of Evel (sic), the scripts are written that way. By men.

Other production staff members: Anna-Kathleen Camper, Lauren Markovich, Nick Friedlander, and Heather Plank, stage managers; hair and make-up, Kendel Taylor.

Doubt: A Parable is a 2004 play by John Patrick Shanley which won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play.  It won all five Drama Desk awards for which it was nominated. The play was adapted as a movie in 2008 and starred Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman. It was nominated for several Academy Awards.

According to the program: "The Vienna Theatre Company has been inspired by recent events to intensify our efforts to be a vibrant diverse company dedicated to fine entertainment."

Special free Post-Show Talk Back this Saturday following the Nov. 5 show!  9:30 - 10:15 p.m. with the director and actors.

Language: All "G" at the church!

Audience: For mature children and adults

What: Doubt: A Parable

When: Friday and Saturday nights, at 8 p.m., Nov. 4 and 5, 2022; Sunday matinee, 2 p.m., Nov. 6, 2022,

Where: Vienna Theatre Company, Vienna Community Center, 120 Cherry St., SE, Vienna, VA 22180

Tickets: Online at Vienna, VA – WebTrac Ticket Search ( or in person at the Vienna Community Center during open hours or before each performance, if available. $15.

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