No Doubt ‘Doubt’ is Great Art

‘Doubt: A Parable’ a riveting production on religion by local high school

Encinal High School (EHS) students just finished a highly acclaimed production of John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt: A Parable.

Skeptics might have entertained the mistaken belief that "Doubt" would soar over the intellectual domain of high-school students or it would exceed the average adolescent’s attention span; they were wrong. This production was riveting; holding both student and adult audiences spellbound from curtain to curtain.

This aficionado of the performing arts, who sees nearly 50 shows a year, ranks "Doubt," as directed by Gene Kahane, on par with any theater production in the Bay Area.

Megan Jones, as Sister Aloysius, was simply a marvel. Unless you drive to Ashland, you are not going to find a match for: absolutely stunning: a rising star. Not to dismiss the conspicuous work she put into the play, but Jones is clearly a stage natural: her acting is inventive, nuanced and most entertaining.

Her Sister Aloysius was an infuriating rendition, bordering on parody, of the proverbial Sister Superior: a dour nun who runs a Catholic School with an iron fist, wrapped tightly with rosary beads, and wields knuckle-bruising rulers. Jones’ performance was delightfully garnished with highly animated facial expressions that betrayed her thoughts as clearly as scrolling subtitles or a voice over narrative would have.

She is truly a creative genius, signaling the audience with condescending wry smiles and twisted sneers that presage her withering, vitriolic fusillades. Jones was one part Miss Jean Brodie and one part the female equivalent to the highly animated Johnny Depp; Jones is the woman of a thousand disapproving scowling faces.

Skye Chandler, as the ever-vulnerable, yet dauntlessly buoyant Sister James, was astounding as she repeatedly bounced back from the crushing, dispiriting blows she suffered at the hands of Sister Superior. Chandler’s character called for more emotional transitions than anyone in the script. Her portrayal of Sister James convincingly dusted herself off, undiminished, after each verbal bludgeoning, restoring herself to cheery optimism.

Alumnus Gabe Lima returned to the EHS’s klieg lights as Father Flynn, a Catholic priest who initially incurred the distrust of the homophobic Sister Superior because he used ball point pens, vice fountain pens, he liked pagan Christmas songs such as "Frosty the Snowman," and worst of all, enjoyed teaching too much.

To his credit, Lima’s Father Flynn maintains a delicate balancing act prompting the audience vacillate between trusting him and believing the accusations of the rabid Sister Aloysius.

As the adage goes, "There are no small parts in theater" and Isabella Davis aptly proves it as Mrs. Muller.

Davis unleashes a tempest on stage; going mano-a-mano with the sinister Sister Aloysius and earning cheers from the audience. With a high degree of athleticism, Davis, in a rightful rage, clears props off the stage with a sweeping soccer kick.

Special kudus go to Fran Kahane in the costuming department; not only were the Catholic vestments convincing but Sister Aloysius’ eye glasses were right out of the early ‘60s archives.

Good theater is an art; the EHS production of "Doubt" is great art.

Jeffrey R Smith is a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle.