Writer: Lindsay Dukes
Last weekend, the Wittenberg Theatre Department put on the thought provoking drama, “Doubt”. Directed by senior theatre major Moriah Cunning, she and her diverse yet close cast of four actors gave a great performance for their audiences.
Written by John Patrick Shanley, “Doubt” is a short play set in the 1960s at a Catholic school. There is a new priest, Father Flynn (played by senior Brandon Pytel) who is a progressive Catholic and does not follow the more traditional beliefs of long-time principal, Sister Aloysius (played by senior Eileen Parry). She and another nun, Sister James (played by freshman Amanda Rogus), suspect Flynn of molesting the only African-American student, but there is no concrete evidence. The play poses serious questions about morals and struggles in life, letting audiences relate to the issues regardless of the religious setting. Senior Courtney Craig also makes an appearance as the mother of the child in question, and she delivers a fierce performance of a mother who is brutally honest about her feelings and her child. The play concludes with no true answers, and the audience is left to speculate whether Flynn was guilty or not. Only Flynn (Pytel) and Cunning know the answer to that, which was a direction choice made by Cunning.
“I didn’t want the other cast members to have their character affected by knowing the answer, so I intentionally kept it from everyone except Pytel,” said Cunning. “It was a great character development tool.”
Wanting to showcase a play that “could stand on its own with just the words,” Cunning chose to direct the play with a minimal set, and selective music and lighting cues. However, this worked in her favor as the dialogue was clearly the focus of the play. Whether downstage or upstage, the actors projected and could be clearly heard, with each and every emotion distinct and believable. The actors themselves were each deep into their character, and worked well on the stage together.
Pytel embodied a young, relaxed father figure, who was different from a normal priest, yet could deliver righteous sermons with passion just one scene later. Parry’s character was cold and hard, whose emotions were in complete control but always bubbling beneath the surface, which showed Parry’s talent as an actress. Rogus, the only freshman in the play, was a breakout star with her role. The innocent young teacher was full of sincerity and raw emotion, acted out adeptly by Rogus through every facial expression and movement, and voice.
Even though “Doubt” is serious in its nature, humor was present in some of the dialogue to break the tension for the audience and characters. Each joke was subtle, yet delivered perfectly by whichever character had the punch line.
Cunning and her cast had been working towards this performance since late October, and while the holiday breaks created a few difficulties, they worked extremely hard and proved their skills by putting on a wonderful show.