If ever there was a perfectly named stage play - one that shamelessly leaves the audience in the emotion of its namesake by the time the curtain closes - "Doubt" is it.
"Doubt," written by John Patrick Shanley, directed by Greg Johnson and performed by the Montana Repertory Theater, made a stop Friday night at the Clay Center, showing off what professional stage companies tend to show off: good theater.
The drama centers on a fictional Catholic school and church somewhere in the Bronx and sometime in the 1960s. It's a bit difficult to describe the show's genre. Audience members chuckled merrily at Sister Aloysius Bouvier's (Suzy Hunt) rugged starchiness, even after it became clear that she was investigating a scandal involving the innocence of Catholic school children.
That's not to say we shouldn't expect comedic relief in a good drama, but in "Doubt," because of the dark undertones surrounding the plot, there was a barely detectable air of discomfort from the audience members, if for no other reason than the sheer number of witty lines in the play.
To that end, director Johnson crafted a show that plays brilliantly on the ebb and flow of drama and comedy. The characters are engaged in a furious tug in which they try to convince each other who is telling the truth. With little evidence to go by - and deceptions and twists along the way - we, as observers, cling to the middle of the rope.
Father Brendan Flynn (Brendan Shanahan - no apparent relation to the Detroit hockey legend) plays the charismatic priest who falls under Sister Aloysius' persistent, leather-necked scrutiny.
The cleric opens the show with a sermon, which he gives in the thick Bronx accent that pervades the entire play. It was especially entertaining to hear the characters pronounce "Aloysius" in the trademark accent. He gives several sermons through the course of the play and has the tendency, much to Aloysius' irritation, to passive-aggressively gear them toward his disagreements with others.
Sister James (Caitlin McRae) delivered an excellent performance as the young, malleable, borderline toady of both the priest and head nun. Her character was the hopeless neutral, but the most levelheaded and relatable.
The Montana Repertory Theater continues its tour Saturday in Uniontown, Pa.