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Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008

Intense Accusations

Theater Review

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   The Plymouth Church on Milwaukee's East Side belongs to the United Church of Christ, but part of it will present itself as a Catholic church for brief, 90-minute fugues between now and the end of the month. Through Sept. 27, the Plymouth Church hosts Spiral Theatre's production of the John Patrick Shanley drama Doubt.

  The mid-19th-century church serves as a suitably solemn setting for the drama flowing through a mid-1960's church in the Bronx. Spiral Theatre regular Terry Gavin plays Father Flynn, a controversially progressive young man of the cloth who is accused of molesting the church school's only black child. The main engine of the accusations is the strong-willed Sister Aloysius (Sandra Stark), whose determination to rid the church of Flynn puts her in direct conflict with him.

  Spiral Theatre received costuming assistance with the production from the Milwaukee Rep. The Rep staged a production of the play at the Quadracci Theater last year, which makes it a bit difficult to avoid comparisons between the two productions. The Rep took Shanley's drama down a very intricate path with seemingly endless layers of subtlety. The production here lacks much of that emotional subtlety. The result is considerably more intense and slightly larger than life, which suits the venue well.

  Gavin's Father Flynn comes across with a blustery gruffness that makes for some really good theater, even if his portrayal seems a bit too intense to be real at times. Stark's harshly judgmental portrayal of Sister Aloysius gains in power what it lacks in intricacy. Rounding out the cast are Jenna Wetzel as young Sister James and Ericka Wade following up her memorable performance in Soulstice Theatre's Chicago as the proud, resilient mother of the only black child in a Catholic church school in mid-1960's New York.