Asylum Theatre’s Valeri Lantz Gefroh as Sister Aloysius Beauvier, Steven Lantz-Gefroh as Father Brendan Flynn (pictured) are the lead actors in the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning drama, “Doubt” by John Patrick Shanley, opening the Staller Center season. Photo courtesy of Andréa Z. Breslin.
By Siobhan Becker
Deborah Mayo, a founding member of the Asylum Theatre Company and Undergraduate Director of the Theatre Arts Department, held dress rehearsals until 10 p.m. on Tuesday night, two days before Stony Brook’s opening performance at the Staller Center.
This year, the company is performing the drama “Doubt,” scheduled to open on Sept. 18 at 8:00 p.m. at black box Theatre 2 in the Staller Center. The Asylum Theatre Company is composed of professional actors and like Mayo, a majority of them are also professors. The company has produced plays for the last decade.
“Doubt,” written by John Patrick Shanley, follows Sister Aloysius, a Bronx school principal grappling with the issue of sexual abuse when she suspects Father Brendan Flynn of having inappropriate relations with a male student.
“It investigates one’s own convictions and doubts,” Mayo said.
The play takes place during the 1960s, when Catholic leaders only recognized the letter of the law and forgiveness for sins of lust was unheard of.
The audience does not find out for certain whether Flynn is guilty or not. They are instead asked to think for themselves.
“Hopefully the audience will go home not convinced of anything, but asking lots of questions of themselves in terms of their perceptions of any event or interaction,” Mayo said.
Mayo said that in a process to get the play “down to its most expressive essence,” all four actors thought about their characters long after rehearsal.
“You dream about it, you fret about it,” she said.
Oya Bangura, who plays Mrs. Muller, has performed around the world and was awarded the Irene Ryan National Acting Scholarship at the Kennedy Center in 2013. According to the Kennedy Center’s website, the award is given to students “to provide recognition, honor and financial assistance to outstanding student performers wishing to pursue further education.”
Mayo said that watching Bangura perform was “fantastic.”
She was also impressed by the whole cast’s resourcefulness.
“Rehearsals were never about ‘oh what do I say next,’” Mayo said, recalling how the actors worked without scripts during the first week of rehearsals.
Mayo said that the actors were instead focused on finding ways to make rehearsed lines sound fresh and scripted actions appear spontaneous, which Mayo called the most challenging.
“It’s finding out what motivates everything you say,” she said. “What’s between the lines, what’s underneath, what’s empowering them… that’s what you work to interpret.”
“Doubt” will be performed September 18-21 and 25-28. Thursday, Friday and Saturday night performances will begin at 8 p.m. and Sunday performances will begin at 2 p.m.