ProArts Playhouse's new season has started with a bang! John Patrick Shanley's "Doubt" won the Drama Desk and Tony Awards as well as the Pulitzer Prize. It is riveting, important, thought-provoking theater brought to you as quickly as a take-out meal, but in the form of a six-course banquet that you will remember for a very long time.
Director Kristi Scott has assembled a superb acting ensemble. A cast this good hasn't been seen since the Maui Academy of Performing Art's production of "Wit" and ProArts' "Driving Miss Daisy," which, incidentally, it is bringing back next. This cast of newcomers to Maui audiences includes (in alphabetical order), Kristin Jones (Sister James), Michael Lanzo (Father Flynn), Kisha L. Milling (Mrs. Muller) and Carla Pew (Sister Aloysius). They don't miss a beat or a moment.
It's 1964 at St. Nicholas School in the Bronx. Father Flynn is the young, well-liked priest who coaches basketball and delivers inspirational sermons.
Father Flynn (Michael Lanzo), the young, well-liked priest at St. Nicholas Church, delivers an inspirational sermon.
Photo: Jack Grace
Sister Aloysius is the old fashioned, no-nonsense nun who metes out discipline at the stroke of a ruler. She is trying to pull into line one of her younger charges, Sister James. During thier meeting, Sister James reveals what she thinks is inappropriate behavior between the priest and the school's first Negro (that's what African Americans were called in 1964) student.
Like a dog tracking a scent, Sister Aloysius seizes on this information and proceeds to try to determine its veracity. She interrogates the boy's mother, Mrs. Muller, and reveals some painful truths about her son.
Although, Mrs. Muller doesn't provide any corroborating evidence, this revelation is like blood in the water, and the sister, who is the school's principal, is more determined than ever to get rid of Father Flynn.
Doubt figures prominently in the play, both as a plot driver and an underlying element. Doubt is the opposite of faith, and faith is the foundation of all religion.
It's difficult to talk about any one actor, as this is a true ensemble piece. Everyone is doing terrific, truthful and committed work.
An acting teacher of mine once said, "They call us actors, not talkers." That means, what one does is the most important thing.
The audience watches as Lanzo's Father Flynn move from strong, patriarchal leader who challenges Sister Aloysius, to a man pleading, "Where is your compassion?"
We see Pew dismantle Jones' Sister James. By making Sister James feel Pew's concern for a student proves she can be manipulated, then belittling her for allowing students to indulge in such trivialities as art, music and dance, Pew reduces the sister to near tears. Their scenes were like watching a heavyweight against a featherweight in an unfairly matched fight.
The only one who is able to go toe-to-toe with Sister Aloysius is Milling's Mrs. Muller. At first, she is deferential to the nun, who is, after all, the principal of her son's school. But, like a mama bear protecting her cubs, she reads Sister Aloysius the riot act and makes it clear that she will do whatever is necessary to protect her son.
The dramatic conclusion will make for great conversation--as all well-done theater does.
Scott has taken a giant step as a director and brought Shanley's outstanding script to truthful life in under 90 minutes!
ProArts Producer Jonathan Lehman, who assembled the island's top-notch production team, consistently presents outstanding work, featuring exceptionally high production values in this off-off Broadway-sized venue located in Azeka Makai Shopping Center in Kihei.
Caro Walker's set works perfectly. With the pulpit center stage and the principal's office stage right and the garden stage left, she cleverly incorporates the needs of three settings onto one stage.
Bonnie Prucha's lighting aids Walker's conceit tremendously by focusing our attention appropriately.
The fabulous Marsha Kelly knew what the sisters of Elizabeth Ann Seaton school would wear, which is much more severe than the typical, familiar nun's habit.
"Doubt" is work worthy of any stage anywhere. It's what we love so much about great theater. It feeds us in every way possible.
This is the last weekend of "Doubt," so don't miss it: Oct. 11 through 13, Thursday through Saturday, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 14, at 3 p.m. Thursday is Kama'aina Night!
For tickets or information, visit www.proartspacific.com or call 463-6550.