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[Stage]

Seek absolution with Las Vegas Little Theatre’s ‘Doubt’

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Bernstein and Weller, as Aloysius and Flynn
Jacob Coakley

The Details

Doubt
four stars
November 18-20, 8 p.m.; November 21, 2 p.m.; $21-$24
Las Vegas Little Theatre, lvlt.org

John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt won just about every award it could when it debuted in 2004, and it’s easy to see why from the remarkable production now at Las Vegas Little Theatre. Its battle of wills—between Sister Aloysius and Father Flynn—seems straightforward enough. As principal of a Catholic elementary school in 1964, Aloysius suspects Flynn of corrupting one of her young students. Maybe he did, or maybe Sister Aloysius is merely threatened by harmless changes in the world (declining qualities of penmanship, secular songs in the Christmas pageant)—that’s where confusion and doubt come in.

If Aloysius (Valerie Carpenter Bernstein) and Flynn (Darren Weller) are engaged in combat, Sister James (Penni Mendez) is their battleground. In an early scene, Aloysius simultaneously compliments James, strips apart her teaching skills and asks her for help. The scene is fast, infuriating and surprisingly funny. It destabilizes expectations of the characters while providing a clear picture of the roles they play in their specialized society. Bernstein gives a commanding performance as Aloysius, and if Mendez seems a little shakier, it might just be a function of her role. Flynn takes the opposite tack, relying on empathy, emotion and, when need be, very subtle threats. But Weller does such a great job projecting a homespun, approachable priest that his threats don’t quite land.

After Aloysius attempts to gain more information from the involved boy’s mother (wonderfully played by Kawanda Smith), it’s straight to the final confrontation—perhaps the best acted, most thrilling moments I have seen on a Las Vegas stage. You’ve got one more weekend. See it.

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