Saturday, March 14, 2009


Went to a play last night. It was Doubt: A Parable, John Patrick Shanley's Tony and Pulitzer winner of 2005. I ought to have liked it. It had things that usually win me over, strong characters, a little humour, a plot with social comment and competing values. It even had a happy ending of sorts.
I hated it. Even as people around us were rising for a standing o, I was turning to David and saying, “The ending is wrong. It’s not founded on anything we’ve seen in the play.”
Today’s Edmonton Journal offers a gushing review. Of that same ending, film critic Liz Nicholls writes: “We find we've been holding our breath, and can't wait to discuss.” Maybe it was my sore back and throbbing leg that was making me so grumpy.
I couldn’t wait to get home. My ears were ringing with the tedious shouting that drove me to distraction. Liz Nicholls wrote: “Anger is one of the least sustainable emotions onstage. In fashioning the angriest character of recent memory, the superb Cadeau turns fury into theatrical gold.”
I saw an infuriating old biddy who has a millisecond of doubt in the last millisecond of the play. Nickolls wrote: “Death and taxes, the twin cliches of sureness in the world, seem positively wispy in comparison to the formidable Sister, who wages war under the banner of "moral right." On what has she built the towering, unshakable architecture of her own certainty? Doubt is fascinatingly complex, as it sets in motion its power struggle between old-school steel and a world of change. And Lally Cadeau, riveting in the role, is anything but simple-minded in conveying the
possibilities in a fierce, humourlessly funny and memorable performance that snaps off consonants like a tiger catching a raw sparerib mid-air. Fuelled
by a double sense of grievance about the Church's male hierarchy and an unwavering authoritarian view of education, Cadeau gives us a character who makes
intuition, unsubstantiated suspicion, the craving to have one's worst suspicions confirmed and the appetite for revenge into moral vigilance.”
Nicholls and I did see the same play, didn’t we? There were crows and storms, symbolic, I guess. But the deep experience escaped me completely.
All of it puts me in mind of the afternoons when I sit in my counselling chair, listening to clients whose world view befuddles me. For them I have felt great compassion. Thinking of them I have written about “the Alien Effect” the isolation and hopelessness that sets in when you see the world one way and others simply do not see it. And now, when I witness the Alien Effect, I shall ever remember the morning when I read about Doubt, after seeing it the night before, and wondered whether we should get season tickets next year.

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