Gallery 7 Theatre examines the layers of Doubt
by Keri Vermeulen
Life is full of uncertainty – perhaps these days more than ever, as so many grapple with what’s true and what isn’t. We struggle with certainty in matters of social media, faith, leadership, relationship, politics and more. The burden has been heavier in recent months, as people try to discern truth in an increasingly divisive political landscape, and deal with the explosion of sexual assault allegations in Hollywood.
So, the first play of the New Year to hit Gallery 7’s stage is timely. The Pulitzer Prize winning Doubt, A Parable by John Patrick Shanley, expertly peels back layers of uncertainty and doubt in a story about a strict nun, Sister Aloysius, the principal of a Catholic school in the Bronx, who suspects that a new priest at the school, Father Flynn, has been molesting a 12-year-old boy – who also happens to be the school’s first black student.
Gallery 7 Theatre’s Executive/Artistic Director Ken Hildebrandt, who also directs this play, chose the script purposefully, having been drawn to the deft way playwright Shanley develops the characters of Sister Aloysius and Father Flynn, diving into their flawed humanity, while leaving the audience to wrestle with their own questions of doubt and how we handle it. “My intent is to be honouring to what I think the playwright’s intent is, and that’s to allow people to experience uncertainty and doubt, in the hopes that we might actually be strengthened, and maybe not allow fear to set in when doubt does come.”
Hildebrandt cautions against focussing on whether the priest is guilty or innocent, or the nun is rightly or wrongly suspicious, saying that the chase for absolute certainty takes away from the strength of the play, which is an examination of doubt, and how we respond to it. “You can go down that rabbit hole without paying attention to the bigger picture,” Hildebrandt shares. “It’s not necessarily about having a firm conclusion. But how do we deal with the uncertainty of the situation. I think this will be a challenging and invigorating piece, even though it deals with some heavy themes.”
Hildebrandt says Doubt is not a slam on the Catholic Church – in fact Shanley has publicly expressed his gratitude for the service of nuns who selflessly give of their time, energy and attention. Hildebrandt does see the play as an opportunity for some evangelical Christians, in particular, to acknowledge occasional feelings of doubt. “We are not taught necessarily how to deal with uncertainty,” he shares. “But the very human side of faith is that every once in a while, we do run into uncertainty, and that’s a very natural part of our human, and spiritual, experience. If we are afraid of doubt, then we won’t know how to deal with it when it happens.”
Even when tackling stories that dig into the grittier subjects of life, Hildebrandt says Gallery 7 Theatre is theatre for the heart, soul and mind. “What sets us apart as a theatre, is that we are doing entertainment, but with a purpose. We experience a richer and fuller life when we are willing to pull back the layers and investigate what’s underneath.”
Gallery 7’s productions of Doubt, A Parable stars Marit Christenson, Jay Danzinger, Nicola Prigge and Abigail Kibarita. It runs Jan. 26 & 27, 31 to Feb. 3 and Feb. 7 to 10. Shows start at 7:30 pm, with Saturday matinees at 2 pm. At Abbotsford Community Arts Addition, 2329 Crescent Way, Abbotsford. Get tickets in person at House of James, 2743 Emerson Street, Abbotsford, or by phoning 604 852-3701.