NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

October 11, 2012

Full of 'Doubt'

Locals take stage in Firehouse production of Tony Award-winning play

There’s no doubt that it’s been an interesting few weeks at the Firehouse Center for the Arts in Newburyport.

After all, it alway is when the performing arts venue stages a full-scale production like the performance that opens tonight. This weekend and next, Newburyport’s Suzanne Bryan is directing a local cast in a production of John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt: A Parable.”

The Tony Award-winning play, which explores the concepts of doubt and certainty and right and wrong, stars Newburyport’s Kathy Isbell, Caroline Gulde of Somerville, Kathy Ann Hart of Somerville and Byfield’s Damon Jesperson.

“I am very intrigued by the concept of doubt; I think it’s a profound concept really,” Bryan said. “I wonder why we as humans avoid the discomfort of doubt.”

Shanley’s piece, which also won a Pulitzer Prize, is set in urban America during the 1960s. The audience follows an unfolding scenario at a local parish school where principal Sister Aloysius Beauvier wrestles with her suspicion that a priest is sexually abusing a student. Audience members are left to decide for themselves what is right, what is wrong — and what makes up the area in between, organizers say.

Approached by Bryan with an enthusiastic and passionate pitch to direct the production, Firehouse artistic director Kimm Wilkinson said she didn’t hesitate.

“This was something, for me, that was easy to say yes to,” she said.

While the topic of the show is complex and weighty, Wilkinson said she’s confident audiences will respond favorably to the performance. In writing the play, Shanley did not “point fingers,” leaving play-goers to form their own conclusions.

“I think we have a very open community; it’s a very well-written play,” she added. “If the actors do their job well, and I know they will because they’re working hard, you do not form an opinion.”

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