Sister Reports for School Jan. 17; Atkins Joins Doubt Company

News   Sister Reports for School Jan. 17; Atkins Joins Doubt Company The flu prevented Eileen Atkins from joining Broadway's new cast of Doubt Jan. 10-15, but she's rested and ready to start Jan. 17 at the Walter Kerr Theatre.

Atkins (Indiscretions) wasn't the only new company member to miss the Jan. 10 performance. Ron Eldard and Jena Malone were also too ill to make their scheduled first appearance in the Tony Award-winning production. The trio was set to replace three-quarters of the departed original cast Jan. 10, but understudies went on. Tony Award winner Adriane Lenox, the only remaining original cast member, performed the role of Mrs. Muller as planned.

Atkins was hit the worst, apparently, and sat out eight performances. Eldard and Malone both went to work on Jan. 11.

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Atkins, Eldard and Malone replace Cherry Jones, Brian F. O'Byrne and Heather Goldenhersh, respectively.

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.

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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 ("Pride & Prejudice") is young Sister James, pulled between her colleagues.

Atkins is one of England's leading actresses. She appeared on New York stages in such plays as The Killing of Sister George (Tony nomination), The Promise, Vivat! Vivat! Regina (Tony nomination), Indiscretions (Tony nomination), The Retreat from Moscow (Tony nomination), A Room of One's Own and Vita and Virginia.

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?"

Set design is by John Lee Beatty, costume design is by Catherine Zuber, lighting design is by Pat Collins, original music and sound design is by David Van Tieghem.

Doubt is produced by Carole Shorenstein Hays, MTC Productions Inc. (Lynne Meadow, artistic director; Barry Grove, executive producer), Roger Berlind and Scott Rudin.

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.

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