What happened between the progressive Father Flynn and a troubled young boy behind closed doors in a Catholic school in 1964? The truth may set us free — but how do we get to the truth? This ripped-from-the-headlines drama is a roller coaster of suspicion, accusation, defense, paranoia, persecution and equivocation, and that most troubling and nagging of human emotions: doubt.

“‘Doubt’ is a wonderful piece for student actors,” Steele said in a recent interview. “It is challenging and thought-provoking, offering roles that will help them grow artistically and intellectually. It’s also a proven audience favorite that is sure to stimulate vigorous debate well after the final curtain has come down.”

Shannon Zura, USM assistant professor of theatre, is managing both set and lighting design for the production. “Doubt” won a 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and 2005 Tony Award for Best Play.

The drama has a cast of four and is set at St. Nicolas Elementary School in the Bronx in 1964. It’s one year after the Kennedy assassination, and within the school’s walls there is a brimming clash between staunch conservatism and progressive liberalism. The script focuses on conversations between Sister Aloysius, the austere, doctrine-wielding school principal, and two more broadminded teachers, Sister James and Father Flynn, who also is the parish priest.

Sister Aloysius suspects that Father Flynn has molested the school’s first and only African-American student. She bases this belief on conviction rather than proof. After confronting Father Flynn, who fiercely denies the allegation, she meets with the boy’s mother, Mrs. Muller. Mrs. Muller ignores the nun’s accusations and Father Flynn goes on to deliver a sermon focusing on the dangers of gossip.

As the story unfolds, faith and religion are pitted against uncertainty and doubt. Playwright Shanley chooses neither side and instead opens the area of ambiguity up to audience members to speculate, suspect, doubt, and ultimately decide for themselves.

The USM Department of Theatre produces one show at the Portland Stage Studio Theater each season. The remaining productions are staged in Russell Hall on the USM Gorham campus.

Details: “Doubt,” Feb. 7-16, show times vary, Studio Theatre at Portland Stage, 25A Forest Ave.; tickets $8-$15, call 207-780-5151 or go to www.usm.maine.edu/theatre.

Tickets are $15, general public; $11, seniors, USM employees and alumni; $8 students. Call 207-780-5151 or go to www.usm.maine.edu/theatre. Special “$5 at 5” Wednesday matinee on Feb. 12 offers all tickets at just $5.

Cast List with year, major and hometown:

Ashley Rood (Sister Aloysius): junior theatre major; Bowdoinham, Maine

David Bliss (Father Flynn): sophomore theatre major; Portland, Maine

Hannah Perry (Sister James): senior theatre major; Hartford, Maine

Pamela Smith (Mrs. Muller): junior theatre major; Claxton, GA

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