Cedarville’s upcoming production “Doubt: A Parable” explores two clashing Catholic ideologies in a 1960s Catholic church school. The school’s principal, Sister Aloysius, and priest, Father Flynn, differ greatly in their mindset toward Catholicism. Opening night of “Doubt,” directed by associate professor of theatre Matthew Moore, is March 19.
Sister Aloysius, played by junior Madison Hart, is entrenched in a traditional Catholic mindset, Hart said.
“(Sister Aloysius) is very composed and controlled,” Hart said. “She wants to defend virtue within the school, within the Catholic faith and especially within the students.”
And Hart said Sister Aloysius strongly defends this brand of Catholicism.
“She’s the powerhouse that gets things done, and if they’re not done the way she wants them to be done, then that needs to be fixed,” Hart said, “and no one really fights her.”
Father Flynn, played by junior David Widder-Varhegyi, is more liberal in his faith than Sister Aloysius.
“He is a big supporter of the second Vatican council, which is interested in putting on a more friendly, familiar face that would reflect the local community,” Widder-Varhegyi said. “When the second Vatican (council) came around, there was a big push to have the priests do everything in English rather than Latin, and have the priests do homilies (sermons) that were more relatable to the audience. My character is pushing for a more welcoming church and progressive education.”
The drama of the play comes from the clash of the time-honored traditional Catholic faith with the new mindset of a younger generation.
Father Flynn is suspected of inappropriate conduct, and Sister Aloysius is very suspicious of him. Widder-Varhegyi said Father Flynn pushes all the wrong buttons, resulting in the conflict between the two.
Donald Mueller, a student at the school, is also a catalyst to the story. He is the first African-American student to be admitted to the school. Sophomore Raven Simmons plays the role of his mother, Mrs. Mueller.
“My scene with Sister Aloysius is intense, and when she asks me what she thinks is going on, my response isn’t what she is looking for,” Simmons said. “I may cause the audience to have questions and things like that.”
Director Matthew Moore said that he viewed “Doubt” as a warning.
“It’s a cautionary tale, like much of the Bible,” Moore said. “The Bible is chock full of cautionary tales.”
He also said the play warns against jumping to conclusions.
“To me, the play is a warning against rushing to judgment,” Moore said. “When I was working on this play, Ferguson was in full swing, and I felt that, on both sides, there was a rush to judgment. The reality of our daily lives is make judgments first and then find evidence.”
This year’s spring production promises to incorporate elements that Cedarville hasn’t seen in a long time, Moore said.
One of the ways in which it will be different is in the seating arrangement. Hart said that “Doubt” incorporates a thrust staging format, which seats the audience on the same stage as the actors.
“The first row of seats are on the floor,” she said. “It’s great because the audience will be in the story as its unfolding.”
Moore said this play also breaks tradition by going without an intermission, which is a first for Cedarville productions. “Doubt” is also different from past productions because “it’s short, in black box format, an award winning play and a play that makes people think,” Moore said.
Live music will also be featured.
“I love incorporating live music into a show,” Moore said in a promo video, titled “Chat with the Director.”
Cedarville student Calvin Hitchcock wrote music for clarinet specifically for this production. Simon Yeh will be performing Hitchock’s music.
“Doubt” is also unique in that it raises questions that will make the audience think, Hart said.
“When it comes to content, this is a very different show,” she said. “I would say the content is somber and weighty. It challenges not only what the audience believes, but also how they’ve come to believe it.”
Widder-Varhegyi said that while the play is nine scenes long, the production’s cast and crew want the tenth scene to be the audience talking about the ideas presented after the play is over.
“We want them to come away from this show asking questions like, ‘Where are the tension points I have with people, and how can I go about handling that in an appropriate manner?’” Widder-Varhegyi said.
Cedarville’s rendering of Pulitzer Prize-winning and Tony Award-winning “Doubt: A Parable” will be performed in the DeVries Theatre March 19-21 and March 26-29.
Conner Ghiz is a sophomore professional writing and information design major and arts and entertainment writer for Cedars. He loves listening to music and going to Roosters Wings.