Doubt On Stage In Visalia

Jan 16, 2013 | 2013 Articles, Theatre

by Nancy Holley

Special KRL coupon at the end of this article.

Situations are not always as they seem, but sometimes they are. When the safety of children is at stake, the price is too high to take chances. The Visalia Players production of Doubt presents such a circumstance.

Directed by J. J. Pestano, Doubt is set in the 1960s in the midst of Vatican II when the relations between the Catholic Church and the modern world were being explored. The differences of opinion within the Church on the best way to meet the challenges of the day were frequently polar, as demonstrated by the major characters in the play.
Sister Aloysius (Mary Kay Akins) is from the old school, believing that the church must remain rigid in its convictions and approach to best serve the spiritual needs of its parishioners. Father Flynn (James Sherrill) is an avid supporter of the changes coming from Vatican II which he hopes will bring warmth to the church, helping worshipers of the 1960s remain in the church rather than drifting away to friendlier surroundings.

Mary Kay Akins as Sister Aloysius and Corenn Peterson as Mrs. Muller.

Akins, a veteran of children’s and church theater, finds Doubt a phenomenal, thought-provoking work. Despite outward appearances, Akins believes that Sister Aloysius is really loving, and that her actions come from the heart. “It is just hard to see through the habit”.

Sherrill is excited about the role of Father Flynn. “I was riveted by the movie and jumped at the chance for the part.” For Sherrill, the core of Father Flynn’s personality is pushing against the rules, seeing the grays in the modern world.

Donald Muller, though never seen in the play, is the center of Sister Aloysius and Father Flynn’s controversy. Sister Aloysius wants Donald, a new student and the only African-American child in the school, to succeed – at least while he’s on her turf. Father Flynn has a more encompassing view, hoping to guide Donald in his current and future circumstances.

Mary Kay Akins as Sister Aloysius and Lindsey Surratt as Sister James.

Donald is in Sister James’ (Lindsey Surratt) class. According to Surratt, at the beginning of the play, Sister James is a strong, independent, creative teacher in the Vatican II mold. Sister Aloysius attacks Sister James’ warm and caring nature. “Sister James is collateral damage, and I wanted to embrace her struggle.”

Sister Aloysius’ annoyance with Father Flynn’s familiarity with the parishioners, particularly the boys in the school, soon turns to suspicion and subsequent conviction. When Donald’s alter wine indiscretion is discovered, Donald’s mother (Corenn Peterson) is summoned to the school. “Mrs. Muller is a survivor.” Peterson, whose previous roles were sugary sweet such as ‘the girl in love’, has found Mrs. Muller a challenge. “When I first read the play, I was angry with her, but then I realized it was a different time, and she was doing her best.”

Pestano has found surprises in mounting the production. “When you read the play, you have one idea about the scene, but when the actors put life behind the words, unexpected nuances and subtext occur.” Pestano chose a play with emotion that depends on the actors and believes that he has found just the right cast to carry the show to the next level. Pestano is ably assisted by Erin Gillis. In her first directing experience, Gillis has learned that the responsibility is daunting, but “keeping a network around to provide guidance is the key.”

The actors and directors emphasize the power of the play with its emotions that frequently go from “zero to sixty in a matter of seconds.” Evidence is lacking, but the emotions are thought provoking. Audience members will continue to discuss the play into the night. What is the resolution? What is the truth?

opens at the Ice House Theater at Race and Santa Fe in Visalia at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, January 18, 2013 and runs for three weekends with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. on 1/18, 1/19, 1/25, 1/26, 2/1, and 2/2 and matinees at 2:00 p.m. on 1/20, 1/27, and 2/3.

For more information about the Visalia Community Players, check out their website and KRL’s article about VCP. For details about local arts groups in Tulare County, visit the Visalia Arts Consortium website.

Print this page and take to the show to get discount:

Visalia Community Players Two-For-One Coupon
By John Patrick Shanley
Admit 2 Adults for $14.00
Coupon good for any performance of the play.
One Coupon Per Family
Reservations Suggested – 559-734-3900

Watch for a new Local Live every Wednesday evening at 7!

Nancy Holley has been involved in the Visalia Community Players off and on since the 1970s, both as a director and actor. In 2010, she retired from 25 years as a software consultant and has since expanded her role at the Players. She is now President of the Board and responsible for Box Office/Hosting volunteers.



  1. The Arts Consortium | Kings River Life Magazine - [...] member events will be opening for local audiences: The Visalia Community Players opened the play, Doubt, on January 18;…

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