PowPAC shows dramatic strength with ‘Doubt: A Parable’
By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
Powerful, believably emotional performances make “Doubt: A Parable” at PowPAC one of its best recent shows. It is playing through April 14.
PowPAC, Poway’s Community Theatre has departed from its typical light fare to delve into a controversial subject: an alleged inappropriate relationship between a priest and eighth-grade boy in his parish’s school.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, set in the fall of 1964 at St. Nicholas Catholic Church and school in The Bronx, does not reveal to the audience whether the priest is guilty. Instead it lets the audience make one of two conclusions — he did something wrong or is this a case of opposing viewpoints on the role of the church and religious with the congregation in the midst of Vatican II, which reformed the Roman Catholic Church.
Cast members Rob Conway (Father Brendan Flynn), Kate Hewitt (Sister Aloysius Beauvier), Lena Michelle Jones (Sister James) and Tisha Coull (the boy’s mother, Mrs. Muller) clearly understood the nuances of their complicated characters, personal agendas and rationalizations.
Hewitt plays a cynical, extremely suspicious older nun who will stop at nothing to protect the students even if it means destroying the reputation of a priest. She is convinced — though lacking proof — there is something inappropriate between him and the only black male student. This sparks the unfolding of events by insinuating to the young and impressionable Sister James that she needs to be on the lookout for “something,” though falling short of telling her what that could be.
In portraying Sister Aloysius, Hewitt has a fine moral line to walk — and she does so with the expertise of a tightrope walker. She believably tethers on that line as she relentlessly pursues her “certainty,” refusing to consider it could be inaccurate. Through the portrayal the audience is given a sense there is something way back in her life that made her so pessimistic about human nature and emotionally cold, though what it could be is left to the audience’s imagination.
As the young, optimistic, full of loving life, her students and teaching profession, Sister James is the opposite of her superior. Jones displays the emotional turmoil and range well, tugging at the audience’s heartstrings in what is clearly a difficult choice — listen to her elder or follow her instincts and conscience.
Conway’s exasperation at Sister Aloysius’ pursuit — comparable to a witch hunt — is believable and well-acted. Is his friendly concern over his young charges innocent and sincere or is it a guise for something more diabolical? Conway’s portrayal makes one wonder if he is falsely accused or very slick at denying guilt.
Coull does well in portraying a mother who just wants to get her son through eighth-grade so he can have the opportunity of a better future by attending a good high school. If attaining that goal means he is the victim of abuse by the priest who is her child’s only friend, she is willing to look the other way. It is hard to agree with her, but Coull convincingly presents her character’s stance in a logical way that it is also difficult to fault.
“Doubt: A Parable” can be seen at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays through April 14. Tickets are $18 for general admission and $15 for seniors, students and active duty military. Purchase by calling 858-679-8085 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. PowPAC is in the Lively Center, 13250 Poway Road. Parking is free. To avoid the stairs, park behind the theater to access its elevator.
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