Doubt may be the perfect play. Set in a Bronx parochial school, John Patrick Shanley's parable on the crisis of the Catholic Church takes place in 1964, right after Vatican II but years before the scandal of pedophile priests became known. What a tragic irony that charismatic Father Flynn, agent of change in an institution desperately in need of it, may be sexually exploiting a 12-year-old boy, the first black child to attend the school. His accuser is Sister Aloysius, an old-school nun and fierce moral guardian of the church.
Since its premiere in 2004, Shanley's fast-paced drama (nine scenes, 90 minutes, no intermission) has been a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner, a movie with Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman and, locally, a compelling production at American Stage. But the play is inherently theatrical and always worth seeing again.
St. Petersburg City Theatre is staging Doubt, directed by Ron Zietz, with Nonie White as Aloysius and Stephen Riordan as Flynn. Tammy Dalton plays Sister James, a young teacher whose loyalties are torn between the two antagonists, and Titania DeVane is the boy's mother. The play opens Friday and runs through June 16 at the community theater, 4025 31st St. S, St. Petersburg. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. $22. Talkbacks with the cast and director, a priest and nun after the show this Saturday and June 7. 727) 866-1973; spcitytheatre.org.
John Fleming, Times performing arts critic