Limited space makes for more intimate performance
It would be fair to have doubts about Doubt, a Parable. The first concern was the venue; the Hilberry rehearsal stage is more like a second home for theater majors than it is a proper theater. The space was cozy to say the least, but the proximity to the players made the entire experience more personal and more immersing than a performance with a larger cast or venue.
Doubt, a Parable is the story of a Catholic school in the Bronx where the principal, a severe woman named Sister Aloysius, suspects the new priest Father Flynn of having taken advantage of a male student who had recently enrolled. The play, written by John Patrick Shanley, addresses what it means to doubt, how the pressure of everything that could be wrong wearing down the soul as much as the pressure of everything that could be right. Doubt also critiques the power structure used in the Catholic church, which is significantly biased toward men.
Any good sermon starts with a story to reel the audience in, and each of the sermons delivered by Andrick Siegmund in Doubt were more than good. His delivery was so convincing, Catholics in the audience had to restrain themselves to responding with a jubilant Amen at the conclusion of each parable.
The most impressive part of Siegmund’s performance is the conveyance of the internal struggle that Father Flynn allegedly faces. Siegmund has the responsibility of existing in a gray area, giving the audience just enough uncertainty to prompt doubts of their convictions without outright changing any minds.
Siegmund said that he was able to learn more about acting than ever before in preparing for his role as Father Flynn. One challenge he had to face was eliminating his own doubt on the events that transpire. “In this situation, for father Flynn I don’t think it is a black or white situation, there are gray areas in there.”
Annabelle Young’s performance was beyond intense. Her presence started strong and grew exponentially as the play progressed, until the tension in the small performance space was palpable.
Her portrayal of Sister Aloysius is at times intimidating – “please don’t use the metal ruler” intimidating. But, Young also channels the unerring sense of moral direction that is difficult to deliver without an extended stay at the convent.
Joan Gdowski could have been one of the least biased patrons on March 25, except that she is Young’s grandmother. “The overall performance was absolutely wonderful. Annabelle is our granddaughter, what can I say? She’s great, but Andrick and [Alyssa Lucas and Bridget Jordan] were absolutely wonderful, you could have heard a pin drop at some points.”
In her role as Sister James, Alyssa Lucas provides for a great deal of brevity, which was essential in the early part of performance. The close quarters of the performance space meant that laughs came easier and were decidedly infectious. The dynamic between Young and Lucas calls to mind classic duos like Abbot and Costello, Groucho and Chico , Pinky and the Brain.
The cast and director were able to learn firsthand from the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, the group that taught Shanley in his youth, after taking a trip in January to Caritas Christi, the mother-house of the Sisters of Charity, in Greensburg Pennsylvania.
“We were very lucky.” Young said. “We had the opportunity of going and actually meeting with the sisters of charity and honestly one of the sisters that I met, you could just tell that in her day she was the sister Aloysius type. Just talking with her the whole day, it just made it so much easier to do this role.”
Some might say that a smaller venue makes for a less impressive performance, but there’s always room for doubt.