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Some plays are so obviously well-suited to socially distanced webcasting that I can’t imagine why every regional theater company in America hasn’t taken them up. John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt: A Parable” is a case in point. It has only four characters, none of whom is required to touch or closely approach any of the others, and it calls for no set pieces other than a door, a desk, a phone, two chairs and a couple of park benches. Nothing more is needed but appropriate costumes, atmospheric lighting and sound design and a director and cast unafraid of the thorny ambiguities of Mr. Shanley’s 2004 study of a regular-guy priest suspected of molesting a child in his care and a hard-nosed nun who takes it for granted that he is guilty, notwithstanding the absence of hard evidence.
Even so, Jobsite Theater’s revival of “Doubt,” directed by Summer Bohnenkamp, is the first version I’ve seen online since the beginning of the pandemic. It is also a memorably fine piece of work….
Eleanor Burgess’ “The Niceties” had a month-long Manhattan Theatre Club in 2018 and was subsequently taken up by regional companies all over the U.S., of which Madison’s Forward Theater is the latest. I can see why: “The Niceties” is a variation on David Mamet’s “Oleanna” in which the militant student (Samantha Newcomb) is a young black woman and the benighted, condescending baby-boom professor whom she seeks to bring down (Sarah Day) is a garrulous middle-aged left-winger who has never questioned her own wokeness. Like Mr. Mamet, Ms. Burgess has stacked the deck high, and the results feel less like an actual human transaction than a scripted, somewhat stilted debate with good-gal-bad-gal dramatic flourishes thrown in.
Jointly directed by DiMonte Henning and Jen Uphoff Gray, this production was filmed not in an empty theater but in what looks like an actual professor’s office. Ms. Day, whom I know from her work as a core-company member of Wisconsin’s American Players Theatre, America’s finest classical theater festival, gives a pitch-perfect performance—she always does—but Ms. Newcomb, who became one of APT’s apprentice actors in 2019, also leaves nothing to be desired….
* * *To read my complete review of Doubt, go here. To read my complete review of The Niceties, go here.