by John Patrick Shanley
Singtel Waterfront Theatre, Singapore
The truth rarely appears in black and white, but is swathed in various shades of grey. Doubt, written by John Patrick Shanley and presented by Pangdemonium, explores that precise gulf of uncertainty, where it's impossible to distinguish between what is real and what is apparent.
So much of this play is rooted in specificity: the 1960s working-class setting in The Bronx, the rigid backdrop of a Catholic school, the impact of a potential misdemeanour by a white priest with a black student. Yet, it feels entirely universal. This is truly a parable for our times, something that could happen anywhere, at any time, to any of us. How often have we been so convinced of a particular course of action that we quash the voice in our head that says otherwise?
Director Timothy Koh's production is taut and thrilling. Staged in-the-round with audience members seated on all sides, it plays out like a verbal wrestling match on Eucien Chia's sparse, effective set. An arena where words are bandied around like weapons. It's savage yet funny, excavating the nuances in this acclaimed, Pulitzer-Prize-winning text (itself turned into an Academy-Award-nominated film) and creating fine drama.
The show is bolstered by strong performances, including Neo Swee Lin as the severe, unswerving Sister Aloysius, Jason Godfrey as the charming Father Flynn and Sharon Frese as a mother who simply wants the best for her child. I emerged from the theatre feeling unmoored in the best possible way. As a character reminds us, doubt is sometimes a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty.
The Crystalwords score: 4/5