Watch Two Powerhouse Actors Square Off in Broadway’s Doubt

No doubt about it: The new Broadway revival of Doubt boasts a cast led by two powerhouse actors.

“Tyne Daly is a force of nature, and Tyne Daly and Liev Schreiber? That’s gladiatorial,” says Doubt playwright John Patrick Shanley. “I don’t know who the hell’s going to win that fight, because I’d bet on either of them. And that always makes for thrilling theater.”

Two formidable Tony-winning stars of stage and screen, Daly and Schreiber headline the Roundabout Theatre Company production of a play that won both the Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It’s a 20-year-old show set 60 years ago — but it returns to Broadway more relevant than ever.

Doubt chronicles an urgent, ideological tug-of-war between a redoubtable Bronx nun, Sister Aloysius, and Father Flynn, a priest facing allegations concerning his relationship with a young boy. When the play premiered in 2004, it resonated as a haunting exploration of the precarity lurking under even our firmest certainties. Along with the award for best play, it won acting Tonys for original stars Cherry Jones and Adriane Lenox. Four years later, Shanley directed a movie version that starred Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Viola Davis, and Amy Adams.

Now, two decades after its debut, Doubt hits home even harder. “These days, everybody’s at sea, and everybody is trying to build a little house on top of an earthquake,” Shanley says. “That shared instability was still kind of under the skin back in 2004, but it’s now completely come to the surface. That’s going to change what the experience of the play is for people.”

Daly agrees. “This is a good play, and good plays are really hard to find,” she says. “It’s really about something. It’s funny. And it’s terrifying.”

Daly, who picked up her Tony for her performance in the title role of Gypsy in 1990, is returning to Broadway for the first time since she starred in It Shoulda Been You in 2015. For Schreiber, it’s his first stage stint since Les Liaisons Dangereuses in 2016.

Shanley thinks Schreiber is a perfect fit. “Liev as an actor really embodies a play like this one,” the playwright says. “There’s something extremely intelligent, deliberative, and therefore inconclusive about an actor like him. He’s going to bring the complexity to it.”

Also in the cast are longtime Off-Broadway favorites Quincy Tyler Bernstine, playing the boy’s mother, and Zoe Kazan (The Big Sick) as Sister James, the young nun torn between Sister Aloysius and Father Flynn. Scott Ellis, currently Roundabout’s interim artistic director, directs.

Doubt was inspired by Shanley’s own experiences at parochial school in the Bronx, and he based the character of Sister James on a real-life sister who was his first-grade teacher. (She’s still alive, and even worked as a consultant on the film.) To prepare for their roles, Daly and Kazan spent time with members of the Sisters of Charity in the Bronx. They even met the real-life Sister James. “She’s still a pistol,” Daly says with a laugh.

The actress’s conversations with the sisters she met, most of whom lived through the period depicted in the play, are now helping to shape her performance in Doubt. “I’m very interested in what a teacher she is,” Daly says of her character. “She’s a born teacher. She’s constantly teaching.”

Although she may be best known for her TV roles in shows such as Cagney and Lacey and Judging Amy, Daly’s Tony-winning track record has more than proven her stage chops. Even so, “I didn’t get to do enough Broadway in my career to make me feel like I have a big history there,” she says. “I got some wonderful chances, and this is another one. The fact that Broadway is inviting me back again when I’m well over three-quarters of a century years old — that feels great.”

She’s also excited, she adds, to make her debut with Roundabout in the theatre where she saw Fat Ham, the Tony-nominated comedy that she greatly admired. “I never was interested in sitting on my laurels,” she says. “They’re not a very comfortable place to sit!”

Learn More About Doubt: A Parable