There are very few frills to be found in Stone Soup Theatre’s production of Doubt, John Patrick Shanley’s Tony- and Pulitzer-winning play. Fortunately, this is a work that requires very little embellishment; Shanley’s writing is remarkably economical – almost ascetic. At times, it feels like a mere sketch, with so many details unspoken or unexamined, which emphasizes the ambiguous nature of the plot all the more.
Kyle Handziak’s set design feels appropriate then, sparse as it is. A couple of sticks in the ground here, an unadorned desk there and you’ve got just enough differentiation among scene locations. Director Maureen Hawkins keeps the pacing consistent, establishing a comfortable rhythm as the show shifts between interior and exterior scenes.
Jaryl Draper makes for a convincingly opaque Father Flynn, the parish priest suspected of molesting one of his altar boys. Draper’s performance brings out the character’s dual nature – he’s both charming and ingratiating, but neither seems like a definitive clue to his true self and the truth about his actions.
Although Stone Soup’s tiny space feels like it forces the play to stay stuck in a lower key, it’s also a boon to Draper, who peers directly into audience members’ eyes as he delivers a sermon or a pep talk. If the allegations about the character somehow weren’t unsettling enough, this seals the deal.
Stone Soup artistic director Maureen Miko stars as Sister Aloysius, the severe school principal who initiates the allegations against Father Flynn. Her intensity clashes with the enthusiasm of Sister James (Reagan Dickey), a young teacher who hasn’t yet learned to be suspicious of the world like her superior. Eva Abram, defiant and wounded as Mrs. Muller, the altar boy’s mother, makes the most out of her single scene.
Stone Soup Theatre’s production of Doubt is on stage through March 1. Tickets are available for purchase online.