‘Doubt’ quality evident

by David Dixon

The term thought-provoking is an understatement when it comes to describing San Diego State’s production of “Doubt: A Parable.” Every moment requires attention, because small clues and lines of dialogue are crucial in trying to solve the ambiguity that affects the main characters created by writer John Patrick Shanley.

Sister Aloysius (Sunny Smith) is the stern principal of St. Nicholas Catholic School. After hearing from a good-hearted young nun, Sister James (Rachel Dexter), that beloved priest Father Flynn (Kevin Koppman-Gue) is taking an interest in a boy, Aloysius becomes convinced that Flynn is making inappropriate advances toward the student. Aloysius decides to take desperate measures to figure out if her disturbing intuitions are correct.

“Doubt” is an outstanding script that requires a simple thing to make the material work: great acting. The players in this show are so gripping that all the actions and dialogue blend seamlessly.

When the intense final scenes come, the only thing that matters is what the cast is saying and how they are reacting. This is primarily because the lead performers are so committed to their roles.

Take for instance Smith’s portrayal of Sister Aloysius. She is given the opportunity to behave like the smartest and most experienced person in the Catholic school, but there are moments of eloquent vulnerability that Smith effectively communicates. This especially comes into play in some of the interactions between Aloysius and James. Koppman-Gue deliberately plays Flynn in a straightforward way, not really giving the impression that he can be the menacing demon that Aloysius takes him for. Koppman-Gue is required to show two sides to Flynn. Flynn, the motivational preacher trying to inspire his flock and Flynn, the human being who is trying to reach out to his colleagues and followers. Koppman-Gue cleverly contrasts both parts of Flynn’s persona, which makes the man of the cloth all the more interesting.

Just one scene can be used to emphasize how multitalented Dexter is as an artist. During a major confrontation between Flynn, Aloysius and James, Dexter demonstrates some natural comedic skills from the second her face is visible on the stage. Before this long segment is finished, she adapts to a shocking display of intensity when her character, James, is required to stand up to Aloysius.

Ivouma Okoro is calculatingly cold as Mrs. Muller, the mother of the child Flynn may be having relations with. While she only has a few minutes worth of material to work with, she does make it count by thinly hiding some haunting emotions, before suddenly revealing shocking secrets.

Director C.J. Keith wisely uses the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” method for staging “Doubt.” If this was an expansive version of the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, chances are the impact would be minimized. Luckily, that is not the case. “Doubt” is a stripped down, verbally heavy and exquisitely acted morality saga with a side order of food for thought; a satisfying piece of intelligent theater indeed.

Tickets and Information about “Doubt” can be found at theatre.sdsu.edu.

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