8 p.m., the Rep. $20-$35.
The Rep knows its demographic. The majority of the theater's offerings is family oriented fare — big, boisterous musicals, classic comedies, enduring dramas. But once or twice a year, the theater latches onto something more contemporary and edgy. On its face, “Doubt” doesn't seem to fit that bill. Set in a Bronx Catholic school in 1964, the drama centers on the dealings of nuns and priests and varying perceptions of Catholic duty. But at its core, “Doubt” explores themes current — pedophilia in the Catholic church — and elemental — the idea of moral uncertainty. The battle brews between Sister Aloysius, a hard-nosed nun who insists against coddling her students, and Father Flynn, a priest who believes parishioners should be embraced like members of the church's family. Their two schools of thought underpin the tension that arises when Sister Aloysius comes to suspect Father Flynn of “interfering” with the school's first black student. Directed by the Rep's founding artistic director, Cliff Fannin Baker, “Doubt” is the winner of four Tony Awards, including Best Play, and the 2005 Pulitzer for Drama. The play's author John Patrick Shanley, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of “Moonstruck,” is currently directing a feature film adaptation of his play.
In short, the play dances around issues that have a resonance with American history... : Why do we believe what we believe?
The play relies on strong performances to flesh out this idea, and it certainly gets them from the Rep's cast. Every actor in the four-person ensemble is excellent. Barrow plays Flynn with the versatility the character demands. Under his watch the priest morphs from a goofy basketball coach to a serious sermonizer to an angry man on the defensive, never letting the audience know which identity is his true one. Johnson's Aloysius is stolid and world-weary; naivete drips from every word of Purser's Sister James, and Verda Davenport is solid in her bit part as the mother of the school's new black student.