Players of the Stage's production of John Patrick Shanley's 'Doubt', which ran for three days recently at Relevant Church in Allentown, PA, rose and raced but never tripped on the cassock tails of Brian Wendt's beautifully drawn and infinitely disturbing portrayal of Father Flynn, a Bronx parish priest whose private interactions with a young male student furrow the brow of Sister Aloysius, principal at the St. Nicholas School over which Flynn presides.

The never-seen child under discussion happens to be the first black schoolboy admitted to St. Nicholas, and his presence seems to have unleashed all kinds of inhospitable behavior in pupils and staff. His purported effeminacy has even resulted in a beating from his father, much to the heartbreak and helpless anger of his mother.

The staunchly traditional educator, Sister Aloysius, however, sees in the child's suffering, and in the attention paid him by the priest, an opportunity to ward off what she perceives as Flynn's overly progressive mandates.

The production start to finish was a testament to the wonder and joy of simplicity--- an intimate sanctuary that allowed for clear and rich acoustics; utilitarian beams of light that heightened the starkness of the script; rows of audience chairs placed so near the fraught conversations of the characters that you felt almost obliged to participate; a low and flat playing area successfully trisected into a stage-right office, a chancel in the center of the stage (conveniently in front of a large cross that undoubtedly resides there full-time), and a sitting room stage-left.

Actors entered from the vestibule, shuffled briskly down the center aisle and got right to the business of storytelling. (Wouldn't it be nice if every theater director encouraged that?)

Everything about the show, in fact, was brisk and to the point, under the steady hand of director Marian Barshinger who also managed to pull the role of Sister Aloysius out of her bonnet, and to perform it credibly.

Barshinger and Wendt were supported with conviction by Betsy Gahmen in the role of a young and ingenuous teacher, Sister James, and by a smoldering Florence Taylor, as Mrs. Muller, mother of the student whose suspected, but unproven, sexual victimization at the hands of Father Flynn is the very heart of the drama.

The show had, and needed, no intermission. It would almost have been unholy to disrupt the rapid flow of events and emotions that poured from the stage and into the nave.

The actors displayed line dexterity that induced momentary but appropriate laughter just when the audience felt a powerful urge to cringe at 'Doubt's' discomforting accusations and agonizing uncertainties.

And then, just as quickly and seamlessly, the performers' voices dropped, their smiles withdrew into glares, and there was blood in the halls of St. Nicholas.

This was a very nicely done production that in the present climate of overwrought and lavishly produced musical spectacles will likely never get the attention or respect it deserved.

One can only hope 'Players of the Stage' mounts another presentation of this quality in the near future.