HomeReviews‘Doubt’ Broadway Review: Amy Ryan & Liev Schreiber Resurrect A Modern Classic

‘Doubt’ Broadway Review: Amy Ryan & Liev Schreiber Resurrect A Modern Classic


Time has tipped the scales a bit in the did-he-or-didn’t-he question at the heart of John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 2004 play Doubt: A Parable, opening tonight in a Roundabout Theatre Company revival at the Todd Haimes Theatre. Since the play about a possibly child-molesting priest made its Off Broadway debut 20 years ago, real-world events and ugly truths have lessened both its shock value and the likelihood that audiences will side with the man in black.

In short, “Yeah, he did it” is a much more probable audience response when the tough-as-nails Sister Aloysius begins to suspect, on the flimsiest of evidence, that the charming and beloved Father Flynn has been abusing an altar boy. Our inclination to immediately side with the crusty, suspicious nun might well upend the entire premise of Shanley’s play, which is, after all, titled Doubt, not Certitude.

That the play holds up as well as it does – and it really does – is due in large part to a top-tier cast that the Roundabout Theater Company has assembled, an ensemble that keeps us guessing from beginning to end. As most in the audience will know, Amy Ryan was a last-minute fill-in for an ailing Tyne Daly, and she takes to the role (and the stage) as if she’d been prepping for months. Her performance betrays not a hint of eleventh-hour jitters.

Amy Ryan, Quincy Tyler Bernstine

Joan Marcus

Ryan, of course, plays Sister Aloysius, the stern, no-nonsense principal of a Bronx Catholic elementary school in 1964. Her philosophy on education is simple: Keep ’em scared, keep ’em in line and keep ’em safe till they graduate.

Sister Aloysius shares this outlook in the play’s opening scene with the much younger, and more generous of spirit, Sister James (Zoe Kazan). But what seems at first to be the elder nun’s tab-keeping on the younger nun quickly proves to involve something far more sinister: Sister Aloysius suspects that the just-arrived-to-the-parish Father Flynn (Liev Schreiber) has been targeting – what we would now call grooming – another newcomer to the school, a 12-year-old boy who happens to be the parish’s first Black student.

So adept at sharing innuendo that she quickly has the gullible Sister James convinced (well, more or less), Sister Aloysius soon confronts the priest (among his sins: he takes sugar in his tea, and keeps his fingernails unclipped). He denies it. But of course she knew – and we knew – he would.

Liev Schreiber, Amy Ryan

Joan Marcus

We also meet the Black student’s mother (Quincy Tyler Bernstine), whose response to Sister Aloysius’ suggestions remains the play’s most shocking moment. No spoilers (in case you didn’t see the original or the mediocre 2008 film adaptation starring Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis) except to note that the mother’s response raises issues of race that neither Sister Aloysius nor the audience might see coming.

Under the assured direction of Scott Ellis, the revival’s cast is unfaltering in its convictions – we believe that they believe every word they say. If Father Flynn is lying – he’s the only character that has reason to – Schreiber doesn’t let on, a real achievement given that he’s not only squaring off against one tough nun, but several decades now of headlines and heightened public awareness of church atrocities.

Liev Schreiber, Zoe Kazan

Joan Marcus

Holding her own against the two marvelous lead actors, Kazan brings a vivid, compelling anguish to Sister James, a character tormented by the condition that gives the play its title.

And as Mrs. Muller, mother to the student we never see, Bernstine makes the unlikeliest twist seem plausible, even inevitable. Seated across from Ryan’s Sister Aloysius – David Rockwell’s detail-perfect principal office set, gorgeously lit by Kenneth Posner with morning and afternoon sun streaking through the windows – Bernstine’s Mrs. Muller is a match for anyone. If she has doubts of her own, she knows not to let them get the better of her.

Title: Doubt: A Parable
Venue: Broadway’s Todd Haimes Theatre
Written By: John Patrick Shanley
Directed By: Scott Ellis
Cast: Amy Ryan, Liev Schreiber, Zoe Kazan, Quincy Tyler Bernstine
Running time: 90 min (no intermission)

Content Source: deadline.com


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