None of the three new incoming players in the John Patrick Shanley hit began on schedule Jan. 10 due to a flu bug. Atkins, Ron Eldard and Jena Malone — replacing Cherry Jones, Brian F. O'Byrne and Heather Goldenhersh — were too under the weather to start Tuesday night, leaving three-quarters of the cast represented by understudies. (Adriane Lenox, a Tony winner for the role of Mrs. Muller, and the only original cast member still in the show, was fit as a fiddle and played Jan. 10-11.)
Eldard and Malone went on by the Wednesday matinee. Atkins missed Wednesday's matinee and evening shows, and will miss the Thursday show, too. Lizbeth Mackay steps in as Sister Aloysius.
Any cast that works closely together in a room is liable to catch it: a flu bug. But when the company has only four actors in it, it can throw a major kink into the works. That's what happened Jan. 10, when the three new cast members of Broadway's Doubt were to play their first performance with the production's veteran, Adriane Lenox.
The understudies taking the stage at the Walter Kerr were Lizbeth MacKay (as Sister Aloysius, the Eileen Atkins role), Stevie Ray Dallimore (as Father Flynn) and Nadia Bowers (as Sister James). The misfortune gave the understudies a rare chance to stretch their muscles in front of an audience; if they don't end up on stage, understudies' main contact is often limited to each other, the actors they cover, stage managers, associate directors or a director — usually in a cold rehearsal room or and empty theatre.
In the lauded play by John Patrick Shanley, four-time Tony Award nominee Atkins plays Sister Aloysius, the sharp, steely nun who runs a Bronx Catholic school and suspects a popular priest of misconduct with a male student. Ron Eldard (Broadway's On the Waterfront and Death of a Salesman) is the charismatic Father Flynn, and Jena Malone is young Sister James, pulled between her colleagues.
Doug Hughes directs the 90-minute John Patrick Shanley play. Shanley, Hughes, the producers and Cherry Jones all won Tony Awards for their work on the bracing drama. The play also won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
"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," according to producers. "Should she voice concerns about one of her male colleagues…even if she's not entirely certain of the truth?"
The Walter Kerr Theatre is at 219 W. 48th Street.
For tickets call Telecharge.com at (212) 239-6200 or visit the Walter Kerr Theatre box office.