On Tuesday night, Mike and I went to see Doubt at Triad Stage. We go there a few times a year. This time we got the cheap gallery seats because I have been wanting to see this play ever since I heard about it on NPR back when it was opening. I remember being riveted by the report as I was driving to work, and I was excited to hear that it would be here.
At the center of the story is a question of guilt and doubt and certainty, which the play does not necessarily resolve. (I knew that going in, so I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that.) I read an article in which the author of the play is quoted as saying that, though the play is only an hour and twenty-five minutes, it’s actually a two-act play. One act on stage and the second when you discuss it afterward. I like that, and as I sat through the play, I changed my mind several times. When it ended, I was dying to know what Mike thought. But, because of a long-ago conversation with Emily, I refrained until we got in the car. (Oddly enough, she mentioned this topic this week. Is it okay if you are supposed to talk about it afterward, Emily? Does that change your opinion at all? hee.)
We missed most of the first “sermon” because this old lady who could not see came in and her daughter was, rather loudly, trying to get her to sit down. I almost went all Juno up on them. But I refrained, because she was old and clearly addled. I did at least give them the evil eye, which they deserved for not getting there on time and being loud and interrupting for a good three to four minutes. Luckily, I found the opening speech here.
I live in a time where it’s much more acceptable to live with both faith and doubt. At the same time, it’s hard to live with ambiguity. I tend to deal with my questions of doubt by putting them in the box marked “mystery.” Oh, isn’t it charming, the way that I embrace the mystery of my faith? Isn’t it wonderful that I allow that we can’t have all of our questions answered? But if I am afraid to deal with those questions because I am afraid I won’t like the answers, how am I any different than anyone who lives with all their beliefs lined up just so? Most of the time, I am not “embracing the mystery” any more than they are. I am putting it away so that it doesn’t hurt me. It’s true that sometimes I am okay with the questions, that I have learned to embrace mystery much more than my former black-and-white self. But other times I know that if I deal with the questions, the why did it have to happen this ways, the did I do the right things, that it will lead me down a path of fear and doubt and bitterness.
In the end, the play is about the balance between certainty and doubt, as we all struggle blindly through decisions that have no clear answer. But if it is true, what Father Flynn says, that doubt can bring people together, can keep them from being alone, maybe that in itself is part of the mystery. The thing that seems to separate me from God can bring me close to others, and the things that those relationships can teach me can, in the end, bring me to a greater faith and understanding.
If you live in the Greensboro area and haven’t seen Doubt yet, you have until the 30th! Mike and I both enjoyed it very much.