Doubt Proves Worthy in Shadowbox Theatre Debut

doubt

After watching the debut performance of Post Productions sophomore season and the first ever show in the brand-new Shadowbox Theatre, there’s actually little to doubt. It’s a great venue with room for the theatre troupe to spread their wings a little more than they could in the slightly cramped Sho Art Spirit and Performance venue on Monmouth.

Sho is a really great room with a unique vibe, but Post outgrew the venue by the end of their first season. The new location has more seating, a rather large pre-built stage, backstage rooms, prep areas, a dressing room and washrooms just down the hall. Construction is still underway, but it didn’t hinder the pleasure of watching Tova Perlmutter’s take on John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt on opening night.

It was a bold choice for Perlmutter’s directing debut and held a slight risk of being too dry, but she tackled the controversial topic with both conviction and a bit of a grin.

Doubt centers on Sister Aloysius (Niki Richardson), who runs a Catholic School in 1964. She is a feisty woman, who always seems to play by the rules. When Sister James (Carla Gyemi) finds Father Flynn (Eric Branget) a little too close to the only black student, Sister Aloysius takes it upon herself to confront the priest about these actions.

There was a bit more comedy in this show than anyone expected, especially with Branget’s witty over-the-top sermons and Richardson’s crass and sarcasm, but it was a welcomed change to what was made as a very dramatic movie in 2008 starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Richardson easily captured the drama that Streep gave Sister Aloysius, but she took those sarcastic remarks and turned them into something more witty and spry, making the audience giggle and laugh at select times, even catching herself off guard for a brief break from the character for a smirking chuckle at herself.

Gyemi looked like she had her hands full trying to maintain the inwardness of Sister James while Branget and Richardson took jabs at each other. Her portrayal of the rebellious and caring nun was superb.

In no way did the humour distract from the seriousness of the subject, it was solely kept for making fun of the puritanical thoughts of Sister Aloysius. When the subject of the play shifted to scenes discussing molestation allegations, that’s when the goosebumps came out and the doubt started sinking in. The equilibrium between humour and drama was a balancing act that the cast somehow seemed to keep pretty even throughout the show.

In one of the most dramatic scenes in the play, the student’s mother (played by a beautifully costumed Jennifer Cole) goes to visit Sister Aloysius in a scene that seemed plucked from 1964 itself. Cole was outstanding as a mother willing to turn her head the other way, just so her son could have a better life down the road. It was a tearful moment.

I was actually expecting Doubt to be the weakest production from Post Productions since they started, but with a little bit of jocularity added to a deeply dark routed script, a stellar cast, some amazing costumes and we were presented with a witty and enjoyable play that left the audience probing their own doubts.

Doubt continues this weekend (Feb. 9, 10, 11). Tickets are available at postproductionswindsor.ca