No Doubts about cast

Leia Karimui Bashar

The cast members of “Doubt: A Parable” left no uncertainty among theatergoers this weekend that the Washburn University Theatre features some formidable talent in its ranks.

Set in the early 1960s, long before any of the media scandals involving Catholic priests and little boys, “Doubt” deals with a vastly more puritanical time in American history, when discussing sexual matters was taboo.

The cast consists of only four characters. Sister Aloysius Beauvier, played by Karen Hastings, is the head nun at an all-boy’s Catholic school called St. Nicholas. Beauvier is a stern, plain-spoken woman who suffers no fools. A pretty young nun called Sister James, played by Laura Vetter, comes to Sister Beauvier in private and reluctantly tells her a priest named Father Brendan Flynn, played by Michaul Garbo, took a young African-American boy named Donald Muller into the rectory alone, and later she smelled alcohol on the boy’s breath. Sister Beauvier, who was already suspicious of Flynn, is now certain he has molested the boy.

But Beauvier is unable to come right out and say what she thinks – a dilemma for such a strong, outspoken woman. Indeed, throughout the entire play, each of the characters is forced to use allusions and frustratingly vague generalities because of strict expectations of propriety between nuns and priests.

When they confront Father Flynn, they never accuse him outright, and he never addresses their charges outright.

“Whatever I have done, I have left in the healing hands of my successor,” he says coolly.

It is impossible to tell whether this is a confession or a denial. Then he argues that Beauvier is merely uncomfortable with his progressive, friendly teaching style. After the confrontation in Beauvier’s office, the kindly Sister James tells Beauvier she believes Father Flynn is innocent but the ever-suspicious old nun will have none of it.

“You just want everything resolved so you can have simplicity back,” said Beauvier.

Later, when Beauvier meets with the boy’s mother, the woman unexpectedly sides with Father Flynn. Mrs. Muller, played by KaWanda Richardson, explains to Beauvier that if her husband finds out, he will beat the boy, maybe even kill him. What’s more, Mrs. Muller tells Donald if he can hold out at St. Nicholas for only a few more months, he will be able to get into a good high school.

The Pulitzer-winning “Doubt” is an intensely compelling drama. Although the experienced and very talented Hastings carries the play, Garbo does an excellent job portraying the dichotomous Father Flynn as a charming, yet perhaps dangerous, man. Vetter is appealing as the well-meaning, but na’ve, Sister James, and Richardson is convincing in her portrayal of an African-American woman who has led a tough life and who will do whatever is necessary for the survival of her family.