"Doubt," according to Tom Amen, who is directing the Pulitzer Prize-winning play opening at Golden West College on Feb. 25, is "a beautifully balanced drama that draws its power not from its clarity, but from its ambiguity."
John Patrick Shanley, whose probing prose earned him a Tony Award as well as the Pulitzer six years ago, poses a number of psychological issues in his tale of a Bronx school principal who accuses a charismatic priest of having improper relations with a young male student.
"Set in 1964, the play could not be more contemporary in its examination of a priest suspected of misconduct," Amen said. "In one way or another, at one time or another, with one person or another, with one belief or another, we have all been troubled, afflicted, perhaps even consumed, by feelings of doubt."
The principal, Sister Aloysius, inadvertently raises questions that force her to confront the foundation of her own moral certainty. The play was given a superb production a few years ago at South Coast Repertory, and local theatergoers may remember Meryl Streep's Oscar-nominated interpretation on the screen.
Amen describes the stage version as "dynamic, yet subtle, manipulative, yet full of empathy." He notes that Shanley "courageously leads us into the shadowy and elusive realm of human nature and ultimate truth."
To portray the determined nun, Golden West is calling on Jill Cary Martin, who scored in the title role of the college's production of "Medea" a few years back. The role of the priest will be taken by Lawrence Hemingway, an impressive Iago in the college's production of "Othello" last year.
Two newcomers to Golden West, Camille Lacey and Rikki Taylor, are cast as Sister Aloysius' assistant and the mother of the boy in question, respectively. The set and lighting design is by Sigrid Wolf, with costumes by Susan Babb and sound by Dave Mickey.
"Doubt is infinite," Shanley says in the preface to the play. "It is a passionate exercise. You may come to my play uncertain. You may want to be sure. Look down on that feeling. We've got to learn to live with a full measure of uncertainty. There is no last word."
In other words, it will be up to the Golden West audiences to determine in their own minds whether the charges raised by the nun are credible, or if there is room for ... doubt.
TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Independent.
If You Go
Where: Mainstage Theater, Golden West College, 15744 Goldenwest St., Huntington Beach
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 25 to March 6
Cost: $12 general, $10 students and seniors
Information: (714) 895-8150 or http://www.gwctheater.com