The actors of Asylum Theatre performed an impressive showing of the play “Doubt, A Parable” by John Patrick Shanley for the production’s opening night this past Thursday at the Staller Center.
Steven Lantz-Gefroh, who plays Father Flynn, opened the play with a monologue. He was dressed in a green priest’s gown and addressed the audience as if they were all members of his church.
The opening monologue is about having doubt, which sets the theme of the play into motion.
The set is simple, yet the whole atmosphere of the small theatre—its dimmed lights and eerie church music echoing as the audience strolls in—allows the audience to feel as though they are a part of the production.
The Pulitzer Prize winning play is set in 1964 at St. Nicholas Church School in the Bronx. For the Staller Center production, the stage set-up consisted of a bench and tree on the left side of the stage, which acted as the garden in between the school and the rectory. At center stage, there was a stained glass window. The right side of the stage was the principal’s office, equipped with a door for the actors to enter and exit through and a simple desk, chair and drawer display.
The lights dimmed in and out after scenes to signify the changing of acts. This simple set up did not take away from the essence of the play. The small theatre, packed out to hold well over 100 guests, created the perfect setting to help the audience feel engaged in the play.
The opening night show drew a diverse crowd of older community members as well as students. The laughter that lingered throughout the play signified that despite age differences, the play was enjoyed by all.
Julianne Greene, marketing and public relations director of the Staller Center, said that the people in the community who love theatre will always come out to see whatever production they put on.
For this year the center was encouraged to put on a play that was well known to people and would draw in an audience. “Doubt, A Parable” received a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and a Tony Award for best play. A movie adaptation starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman was released in 2008.
However, this did not discourage the group from taking on the production and interpreting it their way, according to Deborah Mayo.
Mayo is one of the play’s directors and is also a founding member of Asylum Theatre Company.
Mayo and Greene agree that the well-known movie adaptation would not hurt the reviews and perceptions of their production, but would only help to bring in an audience.
“I’m not basing ours on anything, or trying to do anything different,” Mayo explained about the Asylum Theatre’s interpretation of the play. “Every actor brings their own sensibility and their own take to things.”
The small cast of actors certainly made an impression Thursday night. The cast consisted of Steven Lantz-Gefroh as Father Flynn, his wife, Valeri Lantz-Gefroh, as Sister Aloysius, Nancee Moes as Sister James and Oya Bangura as Mrs. Muller.
What the actors did well, especially Valeri Lantz-Gefroh, was bringing a sense of comic relief to the play which had a dark subject matter.
“The actors were amazing,” said Shayna Mulhall, a theatre major at Suffolk Community College who heard about the play through her brother, who attends school at Stony Brook. “I really felt like I was engaged in each conversation,” she adds.
The ending of the play leaves the audience’s jaws dropped, and they are challenged to arrive at their own conclusions.
“The power of the play is that it doesn’t really wrap things up nicely,” said Greene.
The play ends with a powerful scene, acted by Valeri, where Sister Aloysius finally admits her doubts after portraying a stone-cold act throughout the entire play.
Stony Brook sophomore Rebecca Mueller, undecided major, said she would come back to see another play at Staller after enjoying this one so much.
Further performances of “Doubt, a Parable” will be held in the Staller Center from Sept. 18-21 and 25-28.
Correction: Sept. 21, 2014: An earlier version of this story incorrectly named one of the characters. The character’s name is Sister Aloysius, not Aister Aloysius. The article has been updated to accommodate this change.