Thursday, October 14, 2010

Doubt by John Patrick Shanley (2005)

Summary:  Sister Aloysius is convinced that Father Flynn has had an inappropriate relationship with Donald Muller--a twelve year old in the parish.  She is hellbent on getting him fired and Sister James, an eager young nun, is not sure who to believe.

Thoughts:  After writing about reading Harvey, Our Town and Fences after seeing them on stage/film, I began to wonder if reading a play after you have seen it performed completely changes the experience.  While I have seen the 2008 film version of Doubt (directed by the playwright) I did not find myself constantly thinking about the inflections of Streep, Hoffman and Adams while reading this text.  Shanley's precise writing enables the text to stand alone.  With or without performance, this piece of writing is remarkable.  The language of Doubt is uncomplicated and (perhaps because of this) the dialogue moves rapidly.  The play is one of the fastest reads I have encountered in the project.

Additionally, Shanley's Prologue explains that this play was inspired by his own experiences as a child of the 60s in a strict Catholic school.  Speaking prosaically about the tension between doubt and certainty, this piece of the text is evidence that Shanley writes well in a variety of genres (he does have an Oscar for Moonstruck, after all).  Go to a bookstore and read the Prologue.  It will probably make you want to read the play.

"We've got to learn to live with a full measure of uncertainty.  There is no last word.  That's the silence under the chatter of our time."
-end of the Prologue

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