Doubt: A Parable is a 2004 play by John Patrick Shanley (ISBN 1559362766) set in a Bronx Catholic school during the fall of 1964.
"What do you do when you're not sure?" Father Flynn asks the audience in the opening line of this play, setting the stage for a story of suspicion and moral certainty.
Principal Sister Aloysius, is an old-school nun who insists that her students not be coddled: "Every easy choice today will have its consequence tomorrow. Mark my words." Flynn, following the Second Vatican Council's directive, believes the clergy should be more accessible to the parish and be thought of "as members of their family."
These two schools of thought come into direct conflict when Aloysius suspects Flynn of "interfering" with Donald Muller, the school's first black student. Sister James, an inexperienced but enthusiastic young nun is enlisted as witness. When James reluctantly reports smelling alcohol on Donald's breath after a visit with Flynn, she sets the play's central conflict into motion. The fourth character, Mrs. Muller (Donald's mother) provides yet another perspective when she's brought in to discuss the situation with Aloysius.
In a verbal Battle of the Titans, Aloysius confronts Flynn with her suspicions, demanding his confession and resignation. He refuses, denying any wrong-doing. When Aloysius claims to have evidence, he appears to crumple and she exits, seemingly victorious.
In the final scene, we learn that Father Flynn has been transferred to another parish and received a promotion. Donald Muller has lost his protector, Sister James has lost her joy and Sister Aloysius has finally come to experience doubt.
The New York production was performed in one act, running approximately 90 minutes. In interviews, the cast said the second act was what took place when the audience left the theatre and began to discuss their differing opinions of the events - some agreeing with Aloysius and other siding with Flynn. Upon publication, playwright Shanley changed the title from Doubt to Doubt: A Parable.
Doubt opened off-Broadway at the Manhattan Theatre Club on November 23, 2004, and transferred to the Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway in March of 2005. When it closed July 2, 2006, it had run 525 performances and 25 previews, making it the fifth longest running play on Broadway in the preceding ten years.
The four original cast members were Cherry Jones as Sister Aloysius, Brían F. O'Byrne as Father Flynn, Heather Goldenhersh as Sister James, and Adriane Lenox as Mrs. Muller.
The play and its off-Broadway and Broadway performances have garnered numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Both Shanley and Jones won Obie Awards. After reaching Broadway, it was nominated for eight 2005 Tony Awards; and remarkably, all four original cast members received nominations. Doubt won four Tony Awards, including Best Play, Best Direction of a Play for Doug Hughes and acting awards for Jones and Lenox.
In 2006 Ron Eldard, Eileen Atkins and Jena Malone joined the cast, replacing O'Byrne, Jones, and Goldenhersh, respectively.
Doubt made its Asian debut in Singapore on 21 March 2006 and opened in the Philippines on 2 June 2006. Roman Polanski is slated to direct the play in Paris late in 2006. In April 2007 it will be staged in Warsaw, Poland, at Polonia Theatre. Shanley has indicated in interviews that he will be directing the film version.