It’s no Doubt that The Doubt is one of the most successful plays ever produced. Produced in 2004 by John Patrick Shanley, the play won a couple of awards including the Tony Award for best play, The Drama Desk Award for best new play, The Lucille Lortel Award for outstanding play as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Drama award in the same year. The play is a fiction set in St. Nicholas Church School in 1964, which addresses the importance of being uncertain; hence the name, The Doubt..
Doubt the movie is built on the play and was also directed by John Patrick Stanley, set in 1964 just like the play. This is something that makes this film unique, since most films are normally directed by a different person. The story in both the play and the movie is the same, with difference coming in the way the story is presented in both literatures.
Whether Doubt the movie or Doubt the play, doubt is an interesting story about the changes in the society, suspicion, intolerance and dogmatic certainty which engulf the society. Doubt presents a drama driven by characters that are up to the task, supported by four important performances. The drama is built in a catholic parish in a period characterized by religious and social unrest; with a main theme of uncertainty. There is a battle of ideas and wills that pits the old ‘generation Christians’ against a new generation that is vibrant and dynamic. It all revolves in a nurse who suspects that a priest is molesting an altar boy.
The play opens with a sermon by Flynn addressing the importance of being uncertain. This theme is further developed by the two main characters, Father Flynn and Aloysius who hold strongly to their own view of the world and are unwilling to see things in other people’s perspective. This character is both a weakness and strength and leads to the final conclusion. Sister Aloysius is also certain there is sexual abuse at St. Nicholas even without proof.
There are slight differences between the play and film, though not many of them. In the first place, the plot differs slightly with the play in the number of characters. The play in the theatre has only four characters, Mrs. Miller, James, Aloysius and Flynn. There is a missing character; the boys who are present in the film but missing in the play.
Since characters in a play pass message through speaking and gestures such as winking, body movements and facial expression, critiques of the play argue that without this missing character, the audience cannot gain any insight of the message through visual things such as looking straight in his eyes. This makes the playing field a battle between the pries and his accusers. However, for those who prefer grasping the plot and actions of an artistic performance, the film is the ultimate choice; since all characters are present.
One question that reflects in my mind when I watch the film is; did I miss some parts of the plot as I watched the play? In the film, when Mrs. Miller is walking along together with Sister Aloysius, Mrs. Miller openly refers to her son’ “nature”. However, in the play, this scene is captured in a different manner, with the mother in a position to understand what is happening with the priest, although she does not want to fully get involved. The mother does not openly express that there is a likely hood that the son is homosexual. This opens another difference between the play and the movie. Again, in the play, Father Flynn is not seen put Donald’s shirt in his locker something which is seen in the film. It is therefore correct to say that the scene between Aloysium and Mrs. Miller is near-verbatim as seen in the play.
Important to note is that there are children added in the movie, which aims at skewing the balance a bit. Shanley added the boy in the film since it could have been difficult to have a film with only four characters. The boy draws the attention of the audience more through projecting hopefulness, happiness, sadness and despair. Consequently, this leaves the audience no wiser for extra information. This has led to many critics preferring the play over the movie. This is because the play requires participation from the audience in order for them to understand better the lessons in the play. In the play, the audience does not see the children nor the actions being talked about, may which leaves the audience with an imagination of what have happened hence participation in the acting experience.
Through watching the movie, one is in a position to see the actual interaction between Father Flynn and Donald Miller together with the other boys. This is not the case with the play where you only get it from the mouths of people has happens in the play. This in turn has led to less participation since the audience does not form a picture of the experiences but rely only on the film.
In closely examining the roles of Sister James, one notes a slight expansion in roles. Sister James is seen teaching with her teaching character being altered by sister Aloysious though her use of suspicious remarks. In the play, the audience is not allowed to see mother Superior interact with the nuns; something which openly happens in the film. This adds more roles to mother superior.
Both the film and the play have a major moral lesson. After watching both the film and the play, one gets to learn that: The building blocks of a house are as important as the house.
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