doubt

John Patrick Shanley's new play, starring Cherry Jones, is the epitome of a well-made play. It's upfront about its relationship with its title. The doubt begins and ends the play. It seems the doubt is really about catholism and homosexuality. And the nun is the bad guy, trying or believing and ultimately doubting that she does the right thing in the name of rightousness. On one hand, her act - her accusation, her insight which leads to unrelenting 'righteousness' is shot down. It could be a metaphor for our society right now. We are, just as the priest's audience was, a community united by a common experience of grief which binds us together. It is 1964 in the catholic Bronx and JFK's assassination was last year. We are at sea in the face of our lack of a leader. We doubt God's good intentions or His presence at all in the face of such inexplicable tragedy.

I think if Cherry Jones wasn't such a good actress, the play might be about the demon woman who ruins it for the well-intentioned, if not slightly sexually outre, men, the priest and his queer student. But Jones makes us want to side with her brand of power in the face of powerlessness, fierce determination alongside of her cynical resignation that the deck is stacked against her.

But because we believe in the firm dogged truth of Jones' character, her upstanding ability to mete out the truth from the fluff, her downfall comes as a wound rather than a indictment of religious inflexibity and bitter homophobia. Though, on some deep level, the play, just like 'Bad Education,' is also an indictment of the Church's pathological fear of homosexuality and sexuality in general. Add race to the mix and the play resonates and speaks and shouts and reverberates to the political and cultural stuggles of our time as much as it talks about the recent pedophile Catholic priest stories which were so last year.
Topiary