Beyond Doubt

In Shanley's Defiance, American mores face a military tribunal

Formal whites: Lang, Colin, and Chalk
photo: Joan Marcus
Formal whites: Lang, Colin, and Chalk


By John Patrick Shanley
Manhattan Theatre Club
131 West 55th Street

Like Doubt, Defiance ends in a general defeat: Nobody onstage gets what he or she wants. But where Doubt set personal motives loose in the spiritual world, Defiance locates them politically. The loss of confidence that plagues Sister Aloysius at Doubt's end is matched here by a loss of credibility in the American institutions the military is supposed to be defending. The tiny, openly admitted fault that brings down the colonel is only a symptom of the great sociopolitical faults that, in 1971 as now, America's public face was busily denying. It's in defiance of that relentless denial that Shanley offers his second tightly woven parallel—less flashy, but maybe longer lasting, than his first.

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