Bus Barn Stage Company’s ‘Doubt, A Parable’ will surely make you think

(Charles Kruger)

This reviewer is a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

“Doubt, A Parable” by John Patrick Shanley, produced by Bus Barn Stage Company. Director: Virginia Drake. Scenic Designer: Ron Gasparinetti. Costume Designer: Barbara J. Cannon. Lighting Designer: Nick Kumamoto. Sound Designer: Chris Enni. 

Father Brendan Flynn: Geoff Fiorito. Sister Aloysius Beauvier: Diane Tasca. Sister James: Melinda Marks. Mrs. Muller: Michelle Ianiro.

(production attended Saturday, February 11, 2012)

It is not often that I am able to fit community theatre productions into my reviewing schedule. But when the talented playwright, actress and cabaret diva Michelle Ianiro urged me to attend a production of John Patrick Shanley‘s Doubt, A Parable at the Bus Barn Stage Company in Los Altos, I made time. Ms. Ianiro is capable of commanding attention.

Let me remind my readers that “community theatre” does not have to mean “bad theatre”. Community theatre practitioners typically include well- trained artists who, for a variety of reasons, have not pursued professional careers. A community or semi-professional production may differ from professional work in that the company (both on and off stage) will include various levels of experience, the run of the show is likely to be short and the audiences forgiving. It is often a family affair. Many community theatres have deep roots in their neighborhoods, and audiences experience a sense of connection and intimacy with these institutions that is quite noticeable and offers a special kind of theatrical pleasure.

All of this is true at Bus Barn Stage Company, a true neighborhood theatre, housed in a suburban community center. In the current production of Doubt, A Parable, the work is of professional caliber and the play well served.

Geoff Fiorito as Father Brendan Flynn and Diane Tasca as Sister Aloysius Beauvier in Bus Barn Stage Company's Production of "Doubt, A Parable". Photo Credit: Bus Barn Stage Company.

Sister Aloysius (Diane Tasca) is a martinet of a nun, principal of a middle school in the Bronx in 1964, and faced with a challenging situation. She suspects that the popular Father Flynn (Geoff Fiorito) has molested a new student, a shy young boy who happens to be the first Black student to attend the school. The boy has thrived under Father Flynn’s attention, the boys’ mother, Mrs. Muller (Michelle Ianiro) is not displeased, and Sister Aloysius has no proof for her suspicions. She asks the young Sister James (Melinda Marks) to help her by watching the situation carefully.

Sister Aloysius is almost convinced beyond a doubt that Father Flynn is guilty. Sister James thinks otherwise. The boy’s mother is prepared to believe that whatever the priest may have done, it has been more beneficial than harmful for her effeminate son whose father has rejected him. The doubts raised as to the priest’s actual behavior are only the beginning of the many doubts in this play. Can a wrong situation be right, under certain circumstances? Does anybody have the right to judge? Is Sister Aloysius hard core discipline a type of abuse? What rules are the most important rules?

Shandley’s Doubt is an unusually thought provoking play. It is no wonder that it won both a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony for best play when it premiered on Broadway in 2005 and that the film later went on to be nominated for multiple Academy Awards.

Director Virginia Drake has guided her actors to some very satisfying performances. Diane Tasca’s Sister Aloysius is disturbingly strict but nevertheless likeable and convincingly conscientious. Melinda Marks does well in capturing the enthusiasm and doubt of a novice schoolteacher. Michelle Ianiro is particularly good as the boy’s fiercely defensive mother, and Geoff Fiorito is believable as a priest with a talent for mentoring teenagers.

Doubt, A Parable is a stimulating night of theatre that will give you much to talk about. The production continues through this weekend. If you want to avoid the President’s Day Weekend Bay Bridge closure and stick to the peninsula, this would be a good choice for an evening out on the town.

For further information, click here.

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