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Monday, January 14, 2019

Review: ‘Doubt’ at Barn Theatre–WOW!

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Four years ago we opened a review with these remarks: “After several years and 200 plus play reviews we still marvel that the line between professional and community theater in New Jersey is so frequently blurred. We consistently experience theater excellence at The Chatham Playhouse, The Barn Theatre in Montville and The Chester Theatre Group, for example.  And, from performers such as David Cantor, Noreen Farley, Michael King, Chip Prestera, Barbara Haug, Steve Nitka, Jeff Jackson, Carla Kendall, and Dale Monroe…..to mention just a few of the outstanding talent our area is blessed with.”

Well, we continue to experience theater excellence….particularly yesterday at the Rob Nissen directed production of John Patrick Shanley' Pulitzer Prize winning play, Doubt at the Barn Theatre in Montville..

It is a perfect example of the 'blur.' The play is a unique, and fascinating take on the pedophile controversy that continues to challenge the church.  This production could easily transition to an Off-Broadway venue and win its share of raves.

Many readers will remember the powerful film version with Meryl Streep, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis. The film's four main actors were all nominated for Oscars at the 81st Academy Awards.

The plot: Sister Aloysius (Carla Kendall), the strict principal of St. Nicolas Elementary School, learns that Father Flynn (Greg Allen), the new priest, has met with the school’s first black student in private. Minus any real evidence she is certain that he has molested the boy, she determines to get him removed from the parish. Their battle and the boy’s story cast doubt not only on the priest, but on the church, personal conviction, and faith itself.

48377687_10155749335471574_7331149655444553728_oTo succeed in removing Father Flynn she enlists a reluctant young nun (Kathleen Mallon) and the boy’s mother (Leslie Silverman).   To say, Carla Kendall’s Sister Aloysius’ powerful, forceful, unrelenting attack of the priest is exciting theater is an understatement. Kendall was excellent as Maria Callas in Master Class at the Barn several seasons ago, but this performance exceeds that widely acclaimed effort. It is a bit of a theater cliché….but her performance alone is worth the price of admission. Playing Father Flynn is a Barn veteran Greg Allen. (Cal in last season’s Mothers and Sons).He is spot-on as the sensitive and caring priest. He particularly excels when he is sparring with the determined principal. Kathleen Mallon’s young Sister James is the perfect innocent who is conflicted by her enjoyment of teaching and Sister Aloysius' doctrine that children should fear, not love their nuns.

48356155_10155749319186574_160129020883632128_oLeslie Silverman is excellent in the role of Mrs. Muller, the black boy's very protective mother. Her dramatic confrontation with the principal who threatens to expel her son for "his own good" is a pivotal scene, beautifully executed.

In short; this is a truly remarkable production with a terrific cast that for any lover of fine theater is a "must-see" event.

Reviewed by Rick Busciglio  January 13, 2019

The key creative team includes: Samantha Haas stage manager; Lawrence Gabriel set design and décor (impressive set; JP Bedell lighting design; Ray Nissen original music; Larry Wilbur sound design; Marie Bogert, Alli Hartley-Kong props; Rob Nissen costumes. The producers are Cheryl Bookstaver and Janice Schopper.

Doubt, started on Friday, January 11th and runs through Sunday, February 2, 2019. Performances are Friday and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets are $20.00 with a discounted price of $18.00 for seniors over 65 and students under 18 on Sunday.

The Barn Theatre is located on Skyline Drive in Montville, NJ, just minutes off Exit 47 from Route 287. For more reservations, information or directions, call The Barn Theatre Box Office at (973) 334-9320, or visit The Barn Theatre on the web at www.barntheatre.org

Top Photo :   Greg Allen and Carla Kendall,

[Photographs by Tom Schopper]

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