Pictured: Tallulah Winkelman as Sister Aloysius. Photo by David Newham.
A Guest Review by our Mainstage 2017 Director, Samuel Jing
“What do you do when you are not sure…” are the memorable opening words to John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt – and exactly what ran through my mind as I walked into Vancouver’s historic Penthouse nightclub to watch a play set in a Catholic school in the 1960’s. Directed by Bill Devine, Seven Tyrants provides a memorable night of theatre-going courtesy of a talented group of actors.
Shanley’s Pulitzer Prize winning play follows the story of Sister Aloysius (Tallulah Winkelman) as she begins to suspect Father Flynn (David Thomas Newman) of having indecent relations with an altar boy. Doubt implores audiences to choose who they believe – the honeyed words of Father Flynn, or the steely resolve of Sister Aloysius.
Olivia Lang brings a pitch perfect level of youthful naiveté to the role of Sister James that plays well with her scene partners, especially in contrast with the seasoned Aloysius. Speaking of the good sister, Winkelman has the gravitas and maturity to bear the hefty weight of the lead role, even though her take on Aloysius comes off as more callous than sympathetic at times. Newman’s charming delivery is well suited to the gregarious Father Flynn, and makes watching his partner scenes enjoyable. While his sermons leave something to be desired in terms of energy levels, it does not bring down the performance as a whole. Despite only being present in only a single scene, Liza D’Aguilar shines bright in her portrayal of Mrs Muller. D’Aguilar shows great range in her nuanced dialogue between herself and Aloysius that makes for a memorable encounter.
One cannot discuss this production without discussing the venue. While the Penthouse’s wonderfully atmospheric speakeasy vibe is one-of-a-kind, it was more than a little jarring to transition between the wildly different atmospheres of the black box studio and the lounge area. Space is tight in black box studio itself, giving actors precious little room to block themselves, resulting in awkward and static positioning at times. Despite this, Lynda Chu’s set design brought out the best of the small performance space, with each third of the stage having its own distinct 1960’s flavour.
Seven Tyrant’s Production of Doubt boasts solid acting and a thought-provoking script that are reason enough to considering venturing out to see it – just don’t spend too long eyeing at the posters of half-naked women on your way out.
Catch the rest of the run of Seven Tyrant’s Production of Doubt, running until December 14th.