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Old Opera House presents 'Doubt: A Parable'

October 22, 2009|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Questions are at the base of "Doubt: A Parable": Guilt or innocence? Right or wrong?

Director Michael Saunders of Leesburg, Va., said even until the end those questions aren't fully answered.

But posing those questions is wherein lies the deeper meaning of "Doubt: A Parable." The Old Opera House presents the play opening at 8 Friday night.

The story is set in a parochial school in 1964 in New York's Bronx. At the center of the controversy is the first black student, 12-year-old Donald Muller. Sister Aloysius (Robin DePietro-Jurand) believes that Father Brendan Flynn (Steven Brewer) is molesting the child.

Saunders, who refers to himself as a "recovering Catholic," said at the base of the play is "you can't judge people." Is the priest guilty? Or is it more about Sister Aloysius' overwhelming need to gain control of changing times in and outside of the church?

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Brewer, who is also OOH's artistic director, said he "looks for roles that challenge me artistically and allow me to sink my teeth into." He said with Father Flynn, he was able to do that.

Brewer said he has already decided on Father Flynn's guilt or innocence. And it's something he hasn't shared with even the director. Knowing Father Flynn's personal truth has helped Brewer get into character. He said it has allowed him to play the role with conviction.

He said the play shows the bigger question of "What you see in life isn't always black and white, that there are shades of gray."

DePietro-Jurand of Shepherdstown, W.Va., said she doesn't like her character, Sister Aloysius.

"She's so not like me," DePietro-Jurand said, going so far as to call the Sister "a liar."

Sister Aloysius is "stern, authoritative and doesn't like change," she said. "She likes the status quo."

DePietro-Jurand, who is founder of Full Circle Theater Company in Shepherdstown, said she likes being on stage. The small cast of four, she said, allows the show to be more intimate by nature.

"You have a real chance for character development," she said.

For her, the question is not about the Catholic church, but rather, "not trusting in institutions." She said whether that be the government or businesses like Enron.

"How do we know the kinds of people and institutions we put our trust in?" she said.

The entire show is played out within the walls of the school and the audience never sees the boy, Danny Muller. Instead, his mother Mrs. Muller (Rhonda Monroe) talks with Sister Aloysius about the charges against the priest.

Rhonda Monroe of Charles Town, who plays Mrs. Muller, knows how she would have reacted with the allegations - the complete opposite of her character.

Monroe, who's the mother of three, said she still has a hard time believing a mother would have reacted the way Mrs. Muller did. Even if it was different world for a black family in the 1960s, Monroe firmly believes should have had a different reaction.

"She acts like everything's OK," she said.

Monroe has her own theory on whom the true abuser is in the story. But she also understands Mrs. Muller's hesitation.

"You didn't air your dirty laundry," she said. "But she knew what was going on."

Amber Levow of Frederick, Md., plays Sister James. She said her character is the "innocent" at the church. She said because Donald is never seen on stage, the audience can see through Sister James' transformation what effects the fallout of the accusation has on everyone.

For Levow, the play asks, "Who do you trust?" Even to the end, it's up to the audience, to decide who to trust.

Levow said the ending allows the audience to decide who is the real innocent in the play and what they would have done in that instance.

"It's really a scary moral reflection," she said.




If you go ...



What: "Doubt: A Parable"

When: 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23, Saturday, Oct. 24, Friday, Oct. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 31; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25 and Sunday, Nov. 1

Where: Old Opera House, 204 N. George St., Charles Town, W.Va.

Cost: $17 adults for Friday/Saturday performances and $15 for Sunday performances; students $8 for all performances

Contact: Call 304-725-4420, go to www.oldoperahouse.org

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