By Marlene S. Gaylinn

When one is accused of something without concrete evidence, according to our democratic system, we like to think that he or she will be given “the benefit of the doubt.”  In other words, a person is believed innocent unless proven guilty.   But what if an employee tells your boss about a series of bad suspicions and causes you to lose respect -- even forces you to change jobs – what are the accused person’s rights?  It’s done every day in the workplace and not everyone runs to court to file a slander suit.

In the play “Doubt” at Westport’s Music Theatre of CT (MTC) we get to explore a similar dilemma regarding child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and make our own decisions.  The play takes place in 1964 but because the Catholic Church’s long-standing problems regarding celibacy and its relationship to child abuse are currently news headlines, the subject matter is particularly interesting.  The news also reports sexual abuses that take place in the Boy Scouts, in schools, public rest rooms etc. – wherever there is an opportunity for predators to gain easy access to children.   But there is another danger.  Since child sexual abuse is such an exploitive crime, well-intentioned people may be forced to take immediate action and forget about any reasonable “doubts.”

In MTC’s tiny, black box theatre, we are taken directly into the play’s action.  The lights are dimmed, bells chime, a choir sings hauntingly in the distance, and the spotlight is on a priest who is giving a very effective, philosophical sermon to the play’s audience about the word “doubt.”   The rest of the scenes take place in principal’s office and the immediate grounds outside it.

Jim Schilling plays his role as the accused priest with the dignity and emotion anyone would expect from a respected member of the church.  Marty Bongfeldt is the typically strict principal of her Catholic school who is plagued by her old-fashioned principles, suspicions and doubts.  However, when it comes to her lifetime position, there is no doubt that she is the law and that godlike, she nurtures her school like she protects her plants.  Playing her role to the hilt is Lynnette Freeman as Mrs. Muller, the mother of the involved boy who doesn’t want to rock the boat because of her own reasons.  Sister Aloysius is slightly over-played by Katie Sparer.  She sets the austere atmosphere very nicely but is a little too afraid of everything to be believable.

“Doubt,” directed by Kevin Connors, is a play that will surely capture your emotional attention and leave you with some doubts as well – which was the intention of playwright, John Patrick Shanley.

For tickets and information call: 203 454 3883

This article appears in “On CT Theatre.
Marlene Gaylinn is a member of ct critics circle. 

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