Two ideologies collide in the Bronx when a liberal-minded priest squares off with a deeply orthodox nun in TheatreOne’s latest production.
Set in 1964 at a fictional church known as St. Nicholas Church School, Doubt: A Parable details the story of Father Flynn, who is accused of engaging in unacceptable behaviour with one of the students, and an orthodox nun, Sister Aloysius, who will stop at nothing to discover the truth.
Doubt: A Parable will be presented at Vancouver Island University’s Malaspina Theatre on Wednesday (April 23). Actor Frank Zotter, who plays Flynn in the TheatreOne’s production that is directed by David Mann, recalled the first time he saw the play on Broadway.
“It stayed with me for days afterwards,” Zotter said. “It’s not your typical piece of theatre because it has so much to offer.”
Doubt: A Parable was written by John Patrick Shanley and made its Broadway debut in 2005, where it ran for a total of 525 performances.
Those that attend the play can expect to see a riveting and unpredictable piece of theatre that is smart, engaging and funny, according to Zotter.
“It’s a not a whodunit, but it has that dynamic that does keep people hooked throughout the play. It’s such a battle of wits between the nun and the priest and that confrontation is so rich. It’s almost really like a prize match. It’s like a good fight. It’s really well constructed,” he said. “Everyone’s arguments are so solid.”
Zotter describes his character, Father Flynn, as a progressive-minded and charismatic priest who has a lot of subtext to him.
“He is someone who has a true sensitive heart and a big empathetic nature and I think he really wants to make a good change through the church … but there is a lot going on underneath that you don’t necessarily hear,” he said. “He’s thinking things that don’t necessarily get expressed. So it’s a great acting exercise when you have to internalize a lot of stuff. It gives a great kind of depth to a performance.”
The play is also loaded with issues that touch on themes such as the church, gender, morality, honesty and tradition.
“It just puts you in a place where you really have to look at the mirror and look back at yourself and ask yourself what you believe and how does this affect how I saw the show. It’s so provocative. It’s a stunning play,” Zotter said.
In 2005, Doubt: A Parable won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and a Tony Award for Best Play. Zotter recalled how profound of an impact the play had on him and the other theatregoers when he saw it.
“I was in an audience with all these theatre connoisseurs on Broadway, who see theatre all the time and they were gasping at lines because they were so surprising. The characters were saying things that you wouldn’t ever believe and I’ve never experienced that so effectively in theatre before. I was freaked out by it because it leaves you with so much doubt. Afterwards I was just kind of walking around in a daze in New York afterwards for about a half an hour,” Zotter said. “I remember being blocks away from the theatre and I got alone and I saw across the street and there was a guy who had the same expression as me. He was so freaked out. I realized we both had the same program and we lifted them up in the air across the road from each other. Then we started talking and we had to go out for a drink afterwards and we ended up talking for two hours about the play.”
Zotter said his first reaction to the Shanley play was similar to the first time he ever saw Star Wars.
“Star Wars just made you gasp because it was engaging and different and visual and it just had so many cool things to watch,” Zotter said.
Doubt runs from April 23-27 at the Malaspina Theatre at VIU with 2 p.m. matinees on April 26- 27. Tickets are $30; $22 for April 23 show.
Fore more, please visit theatreone.org.