“Doubt,” a play opening this weekend at the Rep’s Quadracci Powerhouse Theater, proved to be all the things I hope for in a night at the theater. It was thought provoking, funny, intense and thoroughly entertaining.
I was quite glad that it was 90 minutes without an intermission, because I really don't know how I could have lived through a break. I was that into the story line, and the suspense probably would have killed me.
“Doubt” starts with a powerful sermon about the crisis of faith by Father Brendan Flynn (played by Rep company member Brian Vaughn), around whom the plot of the play revolves.
It is set at St. Nicholas, a Catholic church and school in the Bronx, in 1964. Change is in the air. Sister Aloysius is the straight-laced nun who has set her sites on bringing the man down. She believes such things as “art is a waste of time” and that “a restless mind is bad.” (Hmm, where have I heard these things before? Must be my Catholic upbringing.) Caught in the crossfire is the innocent Sister James.
The sets are simple and extremely well done. I definitely spent my share of time staring at just those same colored, two-tone walls that defined the principal's office, and the courtyard between the convent and the rectory looked just about exactly that way. It really is incredible that there are so many people out there with these same memories. It's kind of creepy, actually.
The play examines the issue of certainty and uncertainty, and suggests that it is doubt itself that inspires us to grow. The play has a very well-written script that operates on a variety of levels, ventures into the territory of racial tension, and even manages to call into question the origins of homosexuality. Nora Cole, as the strong character of Mrs. Muller, does an outstanding job of calling Sr. Aloysius on the carpet. Bravo, Mrs. Muller!
The play is all about if, how and when we are brave enough to cross lines. I mean, was that priest really just YELLING at that nun? When should the rules be broken?
And Laura Gordon (veteran Rep company member), by the way, makes one hell of a scary nun.
Jessica Laub was born in Milwaukee in the spring of 1970, thereafter spending her childhood days enjoying the summers on the shores of Lake Michigan and winters at the toboggan chute in Brown Deer Park.
Alas, she moved away to broaden her horizons, and studied out East for a few years at Syracuse University. After a semester "abroad" at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, she graduated with a B.A. in English and advertising.
After college, she worked at Glacier National Park, a ski hill in Steamboat, Col. and organic farms in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and California.
In 1995, Laub moved to Nicaragua where she worked on community gardens, reforestation and environmental education as a Peace Corps volunteer. While there, she learned to speak Spanish, pay attention to world politics and how to make tortillas.
Laub then returned to Milwaukee to join the ranks of the non-profit sector. Currently, she works at the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF) and keeps busy by painting, throwing pots, reading, trying to understand her two-year old son, seeing performances and howling at the moon.