Doubt: A Parable – John Patrick Shanley
Chosen as the best play of the year by over 10 newspapers and magazines, Doubt is set in a Bronx Catholic school in 1964, where a strong-minded woman wrestles with conscience and uncertainty as she is faced with concerns about one of her male colleagues. This new play by John Patrick Shanley—the Bronx-born-and-bred playwright and Academy Award-winning author of Moonstruck—dramatizes issues straight from today’s headlines within a world re-created with knowing detail and a judicious eye.
Review: This review is of the stage play script. In 2008, the stage play was adapted in to a movie that stars Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis.
Doubt is a deceptively simple story: a nun at a Catholic school believes that a priest is having inappropriate contact with a student. The nun has no evidence to back up her accusations against the priest, but her instincts are telling her that something is wrong. The play is set in 1960s New York and confronts the issues of race, homosexuality, and sexual abuse.
The brilliance of this play is in its layers. It examines doubt on multiple levels. There is no certainty. The characters doubt themselves, and the audience is always wondering who is telling the truth. The characters and their motivations are amazingly complex. There are no clear-cut heroes and villains in this story. Everything is murky and ambiguous.
The plot moves quickly, and the suspense of not knowing who to trust keeps the audience engaged. The action is subtle but never boring. I had to keep reading to find out if the nun could prove her accusations against the priest. It’s very easy to become invested in the plot and the characters.
Doubt is not the most exciting play I’ve ever read, but the story and the characters are definitely compelling. It’s worth reading.