A Stage Filled with Doubt

Doubt features, at top left, Duane Rutter and Julia Boyes, and, at bottom right, Robin Joseph and Dawn Brown-Berenson. (Photos provided)

New company to perform a certain parable

By Alison Rooney

Albi Gorn, who recently formed a theater company with his wife, Robin, says the couple wants to produce plays that “have a gravity that pulls them down to the stage.”

The couple, who live in Hastings, felt Doubt: A Parable, by John Patrick Shanley, fit the bill, and so the 2005 Pulitzer Prize winner will be the first play presented by GoJo Clan Productions. The performances will take place at the couple’s favorite venue, the Philipstown Depot Theatre in Garrison, over two weekends beginning Saturday, Dec. 8. Directed by Ed Friedman, it features Robin Gorn, Julia Boyes, Dawn Brown-Berenson and Duane Rutter.

Doubt features, at top left, Duane Rutter and Julia Boyes, and, at bottom right, Robin Gorn and Dawn Brown-Berenson. (Photos provided)

Set in a fictional Catholic school in the Bronx in 1964, it follows Sister Aloysius (played by Gorn), a distrusting nun who suspects the progressive parish priest, Father Flynn (Rutter), of having an improper relationship with a student.

Robin Gorn notes that while the subject matter remains timely in light of the #MeToo movement, the Spotlight case in Boston and allegations of clerical abuse in Pittsburgh, “that’s not what it’s about — Shanley makes it clear. What it’s about is this idea of certainty. You feel certain, sometimes beyond reason, that you’re right, and you’re not able to back down from it.”

Robin and Albi Gorn (Photo by A. Rooney)

“There’s a line in the play by Father Flynn: ‘Certainty is a feeling and not a fact,’ ” adds her husband. “Even though we might have certainty, there can be doubt.”

“Faith is making a leap of faith despite your reservations,” says Robin. “So, faith has within it, inherently, doubt. When you think of people of faith, sometimes that’s characterized by certainty, and maybe that shouldn’t be.”

“The audience usually comes in with prejudices against the priest, but the play makes them rethink this,” says Albi Gorn.

Sister Aloysius, by contrast, is certain about everything. “I definitely understand the feeling of being certain,” Robin Gorn says, with a smile. “I like to be right about things 100 percent of the time.”

Albi Gorn, who is retired, worked for 50 years as a court reporter, covering trials where there was certainty, but on opposing sides. His wife has been a cantor for decades at Temple Beth Shalom in Hastings, where she has observed the dynamics between clergy. Albi Gorn has written and performed in community theater while Robin Gorn has spent 45 years as an actor, director and stage manager.

They met when Albi Gorn hired her as a director and she, in turn, cast him. “He took direction well, so I married him,” she quips.

The performances will take place at the Depot Theatre, which is located on Garrison’s Landing, at 3 and 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 8 and 15, and at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 9 and 16. Tickets are $25 (students and seniors $20) at brownpapertickets.com.

3 thoughts on “A Stage Filled with Doubt

  1. Good community theater, like tolerance, is great cultural medicine. I respect the volunteers, like and encourage the commitment and generous financial contributors of the Depot Theatre. It’s perfectly fine to use John Shanley’s work and other art to illuminate challenging issues — for this we have an issue-rich culture.

    I also understand the stated premise of “certainty” versus “doubt,” but a Dickensian voice from my long-sainted father repeats over and over in my mind: There is a time and place. Perhaps we can hold the show over one week until December 22 to 23 when my extended family is coming up. We’ll need a bigger building.

    It’s not helpful to schedule and market a show that dramatically satirizes the members or tenets of any faith community during a holiday central to that faith. It’s just not something I would do. However, if this is now acceptable scheduling for a small community theater we may need a Dickens to sort this all out. God bless us, everyone.

  2. The great thing about great art is that it does not exist within neatly circumscribed boxes. Each patron processes the proceedings in his or her own way. Mr. Donovan’s observations are admirably measured and thoughtful. Others see nothing satirical in this eloquent work that was elegantly staged and acted. They see it as reverential. The time-honored author’s oath is “Write what you know.” That is what Mr. Shanley did, very skillfully and very faithfully.

    Apar handles marketing for GoJo Clan Productions.

  3. I’d like to thank Tim Donovan for his comment about our recent production at the Philipstown Depot Theatre of Doubt: A Parable and in response say I agree — a show that dramatically satirizes the members or beliefs of any faith is not something that we would do either — at any time of year.

    Fortunately, Doubt is the farthest thing from a satire and we would be hard-pressed to believe that any audience member felt that the church was targeted in any way. The play is steeped in the loving memory of the playwright, John Patrick Shanley, who did not set out to criticize the Catholic Church (in which he was raised) but to illustrate how certainty can close the door on human communication and connection and blind us to our imperfections.

    In his introduction to the play, Shanley is clear that he wrote this play to deal with the concept of certainty versus doubt, not misconduct in the church. The play is, indeed, a parable. I believe Doubt delivers a warning to us not to be seduced into being convinced of one’s absolute certitude. And given that “certainty” seems to be pervasive in so much of our current religious, cultural and political climes, we had hoped that presenting this play could be a reminder that none of us are perfect, a deeply reverential tenet shared by all religions.

    Joseph is the co-artistic director of GoJo Clan Productions.