ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Where there is doubt, there lies compassion.
John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play takes place in the Bronx, New York, in a Catholic school run by the pathologically rigid principal Sister Aloysius.
The nun wages an undeclared war with the new parish priest, Father Flynn, who stands accused of a horrific crime against a 14-year-old boy.
The Adobe Theater is producing the play beginning on Friday, Feb. 21, running on weekends through March 15.
“Doubt” isn’t really about the possibility of sexual abuse,” director Nancy Sellin said. “It’s about doubt in a world of certainty.
“When you are in doubt, you can grow,” Sellin said.
The young and naive teacher Sister James receives a request from altar boy Donald Miller, the school’s sole African American student, to meet Flynn in the rectory. Donald returns to class visibly upset and James notices the smell of alcohol on his breath. She later observes Flynn placing an undershirt in Donald’s locker. Sister James reports her suspicions to Aloysius, who confronts Flynn.
Flynn denies any wrongdoing, claiming he had caught Donald drinking communion wine. Aloysius is unconvinced.
“I just think she’s a very good Catholic,” Sellin said. “She is absolutely certain of her position, even though she has no evidence. She’s a very closed, judgmental, self-righteous person. But she has enough in the play that makes her vulnerable.”
Sellin sees Sister James as a true innocent.
She’s “the typical novice who took her vows before she even had a man. She can be easily swayed.”
Sister Aloysius once was married, but her husband died in the war, perhaps explaining her severity.
Shanley said in a 2017 interview: “There’s a symptom apparent in America right now. It’s evident in entertainment coverage, political talk shows and in artistic criticism of every kind. We are living in a culture of extreme advocacy of confrontation, of judgment and of verdict. Communication has become a test of wills. Doubt requires more courage than conviction does, and more energy; because conviction is a resting place and doubt is infinite – it is a passionate exercise.”
The Oscar-winning 2008 film adaptation starred Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams.