Mask and Hammer Theater Club Presents: “Doubt: A Parable”

Hannah Da’Mes, Staff Writer | 

From March 22 to 25, the Mask and Hammer Theatre Club put on a stunning production of John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt: A Parable” in the Hamblin Theater. Directed by senior Laura Varela, who is a mass communications major and theatre minor, the one-act play explores a Catholic school in which the principal, Sister Aloysius, is suspicious of the new Priest, Father Flynn. The play pulls the audience back and forth between convictions, and leaves them with an uneasy “doubt” about the outcome of the show. Although the play is primarily a drama, there were comedic moments that surprised the audience into laughter, even during the more somber scenes.

Father Flynn, played by sophomore adolescence English education major Josh Martell, is a progressive, empathetic, young Priest whose mission is to connect with students as an understanding, yet firm, role model at a traditional Catholic school. The ultra-conservativity of the school is due mostly to Sister Aloysius, a no-nonsense, intimidating, and feared woman in her 60s, played by junior adolescence English education major Emma Sarnacki. Sister Aloysius becomes suspicious of Father Flynn’s involvement with the boys in the school, particularly that of Donald Muller (not featured in the play), the only student of color in the school. As the play takes place in 1964, there is a prevalent theme of the Civil Rights movement running through the storyline. Donald’s mother, Mrs. Muller, who is played by junior Africano-Latina studies and theatre major Sapphira Koerner, delivers a heartbreaking scene in which she explains the struggles that her son, as a young black child, has to endure in school and in life.

Throughout the play, Sister Aloysius attempts to make her case about whether or not Father Flynn engaged in inappropriate relations with Donald Muller. One of Donald’s teachers, Sister James, played by freshman political science major Sabrina Cahenzli, has a fondness for Father Flynn and, for the most part, does not believe Sister Aloysius’ claims. Sister James is representative of an interrupted innocence, of the prospect of being dragged into a horrible, uncertain situation about morality.

Sophomore theater major Emily Walling was the stage manager for the production of “Doubt.” She explained her enjoyment watching the process of the director, designers, actors, and crew transform the script into a “beautiful and meaningful piece of artwork.” Of course, Walling had more to do with the process than she gives herself credit for; the job of a stage manager is to keep everyone else in order and oversee the production as a whole. Emily’s immense promise in the Theatre Department was revealed after each seamless performance, especially as it was her first time stage managing.

Varela’s director’s note, which can be located in the back of the show’s program designed by Mask and Hammer Public Relations Officer Aliana Manteria, covers the frustrating and ambiguous “doubt” that plagues the characters, as well as the audience. Varela encourages those watching the play to “embrace the frustration…and question yourself. Allow yourself to grow and realize that the times are changing, and we must change with them.” She explained the relevance of the play to our current political climate. Even though it was set in the 60s, there are recurring matters that garner our full attention.

“Within the early months of 2018,” Laura writes, “I can understand if viewers look towards the upcoming months (and years) with hesitation…but we must grow, and to allow that growth, we must doubt.”

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