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Penn State Centre Stage Presents ‘Doubt: A Parable’

by and on July 20, 2013 9:53 AM

“It’s a mystery,” actor Carly Evan Hughes said.

“…and the answer to the mystery is not clear,” actor Jane Ridley said.

Penn State Centre Stage will present “Doubt: A Parable” from July 24 until Aug. 3 at the Penn State Downtown Theatre Center. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award for best play, “Doubt” is directed by theatre veteran Jim Wise, performed by an extraordinary four-person cast and backed by an ingenious artistic team. Written by John Patrick Shanley, the play is a mesmerizing, suspense-filled drama with themes of doubt, uncertainty and growth permeating its core.

Set in 1964 at St. Nicholas, a Catholic church and school in the Bronx, “Doubt” opens with a sermon by Father Flynn addressing the importance of uncertainty. Having just admitted its first African-American student, Donald Muller, mysterious circumstances lead the school’s principal, Sister Aloysius to accuse the beloved Father Flynn of making improper advances toward the boy.

Sister Aloysius enlists the aid of a young teacher, Sister James, in her efforts to validate her concerns and confront Father Flynn. In a dramatic confrontation, Flynn is adamant in his denial of any wrongdoing, while Sister Aloysius is certain of his guilt. With Sister James and Donald’s mother, Mrs. Muller, caught in the middle, the priest and principal face off in a battle of wills that will force one of them to leave St. Nicholas. In turn, with no substantial proof regarding Sister Aloysius’ accusation, the audience is left with its own doubt.

“Doubt” stars Penn State faculty member Jane Ridley as Sister Aloysius, Kevin Murphy as Father Flynn, Carly Evan Hughes as Sister James and Stori Ayers as Mrs. Muller.

With each character having a distinct personality and view of the situation, drama is sure to ensue.

“Sister James is a very innocent and naïve little nun,” Hughes said. “She always looks for the good in everybody, and she’s always trying to do the right thing.”

On the contrary, Ridley said: “Sister Aloysius is very strong, and driven to protect the children; she has an eagle eye so she knows exactly what’s going on, which is why she’s so certain about Father Flynn.”

Despite the overriding question of Father Flynn’s actions, the play explores life’s greater questions and the pervasiveness and importance of doubt in one’s life.

“I think it’s less about the scandal and more about moral certainty,” Wise said. “If we can articulate (the confusing place of doubt) in the play, and audiences get through the initial problem of who’s right and who’s wrong, they will start looking at their own lives. It’s at that point where you’re on the verge of change or you can continue living your life as a lie.”

Murphy said: “For people who see this play, they might just get a sense that there’s strength and unity of uncertainty.”

“People tend to say that the second act of this play happens in the lobby after the show,” Ridley said. “I would love it if people went out…really talking about the mystery of what it means to be human and available to grow. We need that; not just here, but all over the world. We need to embrace uncertainty.”

“Doubt” will preview at 7:30 p.m. on July 24 and July 25. Opening night is July 26 at 8 p.m. The doors will open at 6:30 p.m. for the opening night reception, which includes pre-show hors d’ouevres, the show and post-show desserts. The play will continue its run at the Downtown Theatre Center at 7:30 p.m. on July 30, 31 and Aug. 1, and at 8 p.m. on July 27, Aug. 2 and 3. Matinees will be at 2 p.m. on July 31 and Aug. 3.

Tickets for the previews and matinees are $20, and the evening shows are $30. The Opening Night Reception and show is $60. Tickets can be purchased online at, by calling (814) 863-0255 or by visiting the ticket center at the Downtown Theatre Center, Eisenhower Auditorium or the Bryce Jordan Center.

This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

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