(Next up at the Kerr, beginning in October, will be the musical Grey Gardens.)
When it completes its run, Doubt will be the fifth longest running play of the past 10 years. The current cast members — Eileen Atkins as Sister Aloysius and Ron Eldard as Father Flynn, with Jena Malone as Sister James and Adriane Lenox as Mrs. Muller — extended their contracts several weeks to play through July 2. Lenox won the Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Play.
Cherry Jones, who won a 2005 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance as Sister Aloysius, will headline a national tour of the drama, launching September 2006 at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. Doubt was originally produced by Manhattan Theatre Club Off-Broadway at Stage I at New York City Center, where it opened Nov. 23, 2004 to rave reviews, and played for 101 performances through Jan. 30, 2005.
The production began performances on Broadway on March 9, 2005 and opened on March 31, 2005 at the Walter Kerr Theatre. The Broadway production is produced by Carole Shorenstein Hays; MTC Productions, Inc. (Lynne Meadow, artistic director; Barry Grove, executive producer); Roger Berlind; and Scott Rudin.
"Set against the backdrop of a Bronx Catholic school in 1964, Doubt is the story of a strong-minded woman faced with a difficult decision. Should she voice concerns about one of her male colleagues…even if she's not entirely certain of the truth?"
Devoted to world premieres and New York premieres, the not-for-profit Manhattan Theatre Club operates spaces both on Broadway (the Biltmore Theatre) and off (City Center's Stage I and II) and has a reputation as a place where writers are prized.
The path of both Proof and Doubt was a launch at MTC's Stage I Off-Broadway followed by a commercial move to Broadway. Doubt, subtitled a Parable, moved to the Walter Kerr Theatre (where Proof also landed). MTC produced both plays on Broadway with producing partners.
MTC artistic director Lynne Meadow said one of her company's long-time goals has been to form and nurture relationships with playwrights. MTC's history with the young Dave Auburn was recent, while prolific Shanley and MTC are old pals.
"It's the culmination of many years of a relationship with a writer I respect enormously and I care about very deeply," an exhilarated Meadow told Playbill.com in 2005, hours after learning Shanley's play won the Pulitzer. "So it's very, very fulfilling. As you know, this is the seventh of John's plays that we've done."
For the record, MTC produced Shanley's Four Dogs and a Bone, Beggars in the House of Plenty, Psychopathia Sexualis, Italian American Reconciliation, Women of Manhattan and, most recently, the scathing divorce comedy, Where's My Money?
Cherry Jones, Brían F. O'Byrne, Heather Goldenhersh and Adriane Lenox were the original cast members of Doubt.
Shortly after hearing the April 4, 2005, news that he was awarded the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, John Patrick Shanley shared a secret about his Broadway play, Doubt.
Was the secret that winning the prize, one of the top awards for playwrights in America, is daunting and he worries that he won't have as great a success again?
"It's not daunting," Bronx native Shanley told Playbill.com. "I've been doing this for too long to be daunted. I know that I will fail again, and I am at home with that. It's a lovely and affirming piece of news. I guess I view the Pulitzer Prize as a celebration of the American playwright, and that's a party that I'm happy to attend."
But it must make him just as happy that people are flocking to his mystery-tinged play, about accusations by a nun concerning a priest's behavior with a student in a Catholic school.
"Yeah," Shanley said, "but you know, I like the name: The Pulitzer Prize. It's just cool, you know? I'd be a dork if I didn't enjoy it on behalf of all the American playwrights. We all work really hard and try to do good work and when one of us is singled out for recognition it's for everybody, in a way, it's a great thing. Certainly, there's a lot of playwrights who would slap me if I didn't enjoy it."
What isn't answered in the play (which marked the prolific Shanley's Broadway debut) is whether or not the priest is guilty of wrongdoing.
"I think the last act of the play takes place in the audience, after they leave and they go out and have drinks or dinner," Shanley said. "That's one of the things I look for from theatre. I have an email address in the Playbill, so I hear from a lot of people and there are a lot of different answers."
It had been reported previously that Shanley told actor O'Byrne what really happened in the off-stage scenario between priest and student.
"That is correct: Doug Hughes and Brían," Shanley confirmed. "I talked to Doug about it first and then we decided to talk to Brían and tell him, but not the ladies. So we created an atmosphere of doubt in the rehearsal room. What I didn't tell Doug was that I was lying to him."
Should we doubt whether Shanley has decided what really happened? "Oh, no, no — I know," Shanley said. "Yes, absolutely. My explanation would take 15 minutes. The writer needs to know but no one else needs to know."
During the run of Doubt, MTC opened the world premiere of Shanley's Defiance, which Shanley said was part two in a trilogy that began with Doubt.
Shanley said in MTC production notes, "Doubt was about the birth of uncertainty in a person of faith set in a church school I attended in the '60s. Shortly thereafter, the country went through a cultural earthquake. The authority of most of our institutions was called into question, and a powerful cynicism took hold. In short, Doubt turned into Defiance, which is my second play about American hierarchy. I feel doubt is an important and valuable exercise, a hallmark of wisdom. Defiance is a necessary step in the life of an individual and in the life of a nation, but it is an intermediate step — that's why there's going to be a third play."