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Carlisle Theatre

The Carlisle Theatre is located on West High Street.

Sentinel file

If it weren’t for a chance meeting, Noah Fusco may not have found himself eager to be the director of Carlisle Theatre Company’s new play.

It was only last school year that John Patrick Shanley visited Dickinson College to receive The Harold and Ethel L. Stellfox Visiting Scholars and Writers Program award, giving Fusco, then a Dickinson College junior, a chance to meet the famous playwright. Fusco questioned how he could relate Shanley’s two most popular works—the comedy “Moonstruck” and the decidedly less comedic “Doubt”—but through a long conversation, he discovered an edge and comedic elements he previously overlooked in Shanley’s dramatic play.

For Fusco, it only made sense to use that newfound knowledge and seek to direct the Carlisle Theatre Company’s production of “Doubt,” which opens Friday and runs through Sunday.

“There’s a sense of humor that is in ‘Doubt,’” he said. “A year ago, I wouldn’t have gotten that.”

A year ago, he admits, he’s not sure he could’ve taken on such a serious drama, and “Doubt: A Parable” doesn’t shy away from serious topics.

The play, on which the Academy Award-nominated film is based (and which Shanley also wrote and directed), is about two nuns who question the nature of a relationship between a priest and a child, and deciding if their actions were right.

The play only has four characters—the two nuns, the priest and the mother of the child—and with little need for sets or props, it makes for a low-budget production for Carlisle Theatre Company.

It also gives the company an opportunity to do something different with the staging of the play.

Instead of an audience on one side of the stage, risers were brought into Carlisle Theatre and will put the audience on all sides of the stage. That means the cast will always be on the move.

“It’s dangerous to ever sit down; you’ll always be blocking someone,” Fusco said. “We have to look about moving the cast. Any longer than 20 to 30 seconds, and you get antsy.”

It helps that there won’t be much involved with the set. Fusco decided to forego some of the play’s sets, such as the church pulpit, but the play overall doesn’t call for any grand displays.

“The set is very minimal,” he said. “We cut out some of the unnecessary indulgences. We have a desk, chair, window and door, and that’s really all the play needs. It’s a really economical play.”

The play instead focuses on its cast, and Fusco is happy with who ended up on the stage. There was some trouble with finding members of the cast through auditions, but some fellow Dickinson students were able to fill out the play.

“All of them are phenomenal,” he said. “It’s a strange situation. It felt like it was a makeshift solution, but they’re also so wonderful in the show. It wasn’t really a choice, but it’s not a choice I am ever going to complain about.”

With the play premiering Friday and continuing through Sunday, Fusco is excited to bring the story to Carlisle.

“It’s a play that feels especially pertinent right now given how unflinchingly (vocal) we are in the face of people who disagree with us,” he said. “It’s a short play ... that challenges us directly.”

Email Naomi Creason at ncreason@cumberlink.com or follow her on Twitter @SentinelCreason

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