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 Montvile and The Chester Theatre Group, for example. And, from performers such as David Cantor, Noreen Farley, Michael King, Chip Prestera, Barbara Haag, Steve Nitka, Teri Sturtevant, Jeff Jackson, Carla Kendall, and Dale Monroe…..to mention just a few of the outstanding acting talents our area is blessed with. Many, of course, aspired to professional theater glory, but have had to accept the necessity of a “day job” due to the tough economics of acting.
Last night at Chester’s Black River Playhouse, we saw a perfect example of the ‘blur.’ The play is John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, Doubt. This is a unique, and fascinating take on the pedophile controversy that continues to challenge the church. This production, directed by Kevern Cameron, could easily transition to any top 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 centers on Sister Aloysius (Diane Gilch), the strict principal of St. Nicolas Elementary School, and the young Father Flynn (Dale Monroe), the new priest. Sister Aloysius learns that he met with the school’s first black student in private. Minus any real evidence, she is certain that he has molested the boy and is determined to have 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.
To succeed in removing Father Flynn she enlists a reluctant, young and very naive nun (Jackie Jacobi) and the boy’s mother (Tasha R. Williams). Cameron has beautifully cast these four…..as the Brits say, they each are spot-on impressive. Diane Gilch’s powerful, forceful, unrelenting attack of the priest is exciting theater. Dale Monroe nicely projects a sensitive and caring priest. He particularly excels when he is sparring with the determined principal. If his name is familiar, he recently gave another outstanding performance in CTG’s Elephant Man. Jackie Jacobi in the role of 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.
Tasha R. Williams 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.
A standing ovation is also in order for the creative team: Director Kevern Cameron; Producer Stephen Catron; Stage Manager Rachel Lichter; Costumes & Lighting Ellen Fraker-Glasscock; Set & Sound Kevern Cameron and Stephen Catron.
In short; this is a truly remarkable production that for any lover of fine theater is a “must-see” event.
Reviewed by Rick Busciglio September 12, 2015
Doubt, started on Friday, September 11th and runs through Sunday, September 27th. Performances are Friday and Saturdays at 8:00 and Sundays at 2:00pm. Tickets are $20.00 with a discounted price of $18.00 for seniors over 65 and students under 18. Tickets may be purchased online at www.chestertheatregroup.org.
The Chester Theatre Group performs in The Black River Playhouse, an intimate, 100-seat theater in the heart of Chester Borough’s historic district. The venue’s in-the-round format ensures that every seat offers an engaging, memorable experience for each audience member. The theater is located on the corner of Grove Street and Maple Avenue. For more information, visit the CTG website at http://www.chestertheatregroup.org/