So I saw the Pulitzer-winner [Doubt] at the Rep tonight, finally, after missing it on Broadway. Wow. Ran into an ex-Weeklyite (aren't they all, now?) who said this production's Sister Aloysius (the show's villain or heroine, depending on your point of view) was better than Broadway's. Broadway's was Eileen Atkins, but still, I kind of believe it, because this one ruled. Just when you wanted to close the book on her and hate her... you couldn't, because she did something funny and likable, so you were stuck kind of liking her again, despite yourself. The Stranger (consumed by the Segal resignation scandal!) said the production didn't make the priest's guilt uncertain enough, and I agree, but it was still a hell of a good show. It's nice to feel some sense of personal connection to the show; its message that doubt is a vital part of living but still hurts like hell seems very apt these days, as I begin to feel less resistance to ideas I might have laughed off years ago, or even one year ago.
As with music, some ideas get turned away when they come before their time. In college I took a road trip, fall of junior year, and my trip-mate played some Tom Waits. I didn't understand why anyone would want to listen to such a scratched-up old voice for even a minute. Then, later in the year, I asked for Waits' Mule Variations as a Christmas present, according to the principle that you ask for what you wouldn't buy yourself, because it's too "risky" to try something new on your own dime. Soon after, I was playing it in my room when my roommate came in and essentially said: Who would want to listen to a scratched-up old voice like that for even a minute? And you know what? I did.
You don't get it till you get it. And reading Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television is making me think I'm getting something I didn't get before. Then again, as Doubt also communicates, nothing is gained by dogmatism. So I'd better tread carefully and think through what's occurred to me (probably a better idea than jumping headfirst into a socialist guerrilla organization or whatever). Basically one big problem is how to sit someone down and tell him or her that your fears and uneasiness are irrational, you know they are, but you're uncertain of how to best fight that irrationality. Shanley's program notes for Doubt are exquisite -- I enjoyed them about as much as the play. Here's an excerpt:
It is Doubt (so often experienced initially as weakness) that changes things. When a man feels unsteady, when he falters, when hard-won knowledge evaporates before his eyes, he's on the verge of growth. The subtle or violent reconciliation of the outer person and inner core often seems at first like a mistake, like you've gone the wrong way and you're lost. But this is just emotion longing for the familiar. Life happens when the tectonic power of your speechless soul breaks through the dead habits of the mind. Doubt is nothing less than an opportunity to reenter the Present.