By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
In short scenes, Shanley shifts the evidence to one side and then another, always leaving the viewer unsure who the villain might be. Is genial Father Flynn really a pedophilic monster behind that smile? Or is Sister Aloysius, who thinks ballpoint pens are dangerously high tech, bent on derailing the career of the popular priest because he's trying to modernize the church?
Expertly acted by the four-member ensemble—particularly Adair, who uses a convincing Boston Irish brogue, and Lee, who brings a quiet power to her role as the mom—WaterTower's Doubt is marred by static staging by Martin that leaves actors stuck in one spot, sitting in face-to-face profile for long stretches. Un-miked, their voices occasionally drop too low to be heard from the back rows and having them turned sideways doesn't help.
John Hobbie's scenic design is also problematic. He has taken great care to place realistic-looking bricks on school walls and real dried leaves on the ground. But the door to Sister Aloysius' office is a flimsy panel painted with fake brown wood grain that looks slapdash and out of place on the rest of the set. And for a play that feels like a small chamber piece, filling WaterTower's barnlike space with tall church roof peaks and stained glass windows only serves to dwarf the actors on the stage below.
At just 90 minutes, Doubt is a beautiful play that resonates with Shanley's precise, well-tempered dialogue. It's also a puzzler. Like a biblical parable, the story offers more to ponder beyond simply what is said. It keeps the audience guessing. Did he or didn't he? At the end we think we know. Or do we?