April 01, 2005

Shadows of 'Doubt' will hang over audience for a long time

NEW YORK
USA Today

By Elysa Gardner, USA TODAY

NEW YORK -When Brian F. O'Byrne last appeared on a Broadway stage, it was in the guise of a sexual tormentor and serial killer of underage girls. In John Patrick Shanley's Doubt (* * * out of four), which opened Thursday at the Walter Kerr Theatre, the actor plays someone accused of less extreme (if similarly disturbing) crimes but his performance is even more unsettling.

That's because Father Flynn, the character O'Byrne introduced when Doubt opened off-Broadway last fall, is a priest, and an articulate, charismatic one at that. "There's nothing wrong with love," he tells Sister James, a naive young nun teaching at the parochial school in the Bronx where the play is set, in 1964. "It's an old tactic of cruel people to kill kindness in the name of virtue."

The "cruel" person he has in mind is the school's principal and Doubt's stringently unsentimental heroine, Sister Aloysius. Dedicating his work "to the many orders of Catholic nuns who devoted their lives to serving others in hospitals, schools and retirement homes," Shanley traces, with shattering acuity, Aloysius' one-woman struggle against a patriarchal church structure that protects and even promotes men who abuse authority and love in unspeakable ways.

Posted by kshaw at April 1, 2005 05:25 AM