“Doubt” creates lots of doubt

Reviewer: Janet Martineau

Venue: Midland Center for the Arts

Take heed from the first sentence spoken by a character in the play “Doubt: A Parable” — by a priest from the pulpit at a service.
“What do you do when you are not sure?”
Maybe shut your #%#{#{% mouth?
Second clue. The results of stabbing a pillow on a rooftop in a possible parable about gossiping.
This was our third time seeing the Pulitzer-winning play by John Patrick Shanley and it took us this long to finally have an epiphany when Midland Center for the Arts presented it this weekend.
It probably helped to have a superb cast and brilliant direction.
Four characters. 90-minute running time with no intermission. Direction by Elaine DiFalco Daugherty that was filled with excellent pregnant pauses that made it seem so real, detailing everywhere, gritty and intense acting be it words, body movement and/or facial expressions. Pretty much colorless with its black and gray costuming and set; moody lighting. And oh that script.
Love nothing more than sitting in a theater and listening to audience responses and this one was right in step.
For those who don’t know the storyline, it is set a Catholic school, 1964. The school principal/nun, a real tight ass, has come to believe the church priest is having his way with its first black student.
So back and forth these two people go, head to head. As the audience goes back and forth — is he guilty and the villain or is she being overbearing and paranoid and the villain?
Although the play is set 1964, it was written in 2004, shortly after the Boston Globe story broke about priests doing bad things.
Ann Russell-Lutenske, Mid Michigan’s version of Meryl Streep, is the OCD/my way or no way/old fashioned/cold and distant/looking for a fight
/prune faced school principal/nun and Samuel J. Nowak the accused and astonished and angry priest.
Their in-your-face confrontations and reactions to each other are frightening and disturbing actually. So real.
In his case, does his character doth protest too much. And in her case watch for all sorts of fidgeting, facial expressions, behind closed door reactions. What is going on in that character’s mind?
The visuals are a bit of a giggle also as Nowak is very tall and Russell-Lutenske very short, sort of a David and Goliath look that works well.
The other two characters are Claudia Rios as a history teacher/nun at the school and Aja Jade Philpot as the mother of the black student.
Both absolutely in character always – one of whom stuns and causes shudders with her take on the situation and the other who caused this reviewer to have that Epiphany that changed everything, be it right or wrong.
The person I went with to the show and I argued back-and-forth after the show, during dinner, and through text messages when we both got home.
That is when you realize this production was perfect.

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