John Patrick Shanley's drama Doubt premiered at the Manhattan Theatre Club on November 23, 2004, before moving to Broadway, at the Walter Kerr Theatre, in March of the following year. It instantly became the most celebrated play of the season, taking the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama; best new play awards from the New York Drama Critics' Circle, the Lucille Lortel Foundation, the Drama League, the Outer Critics Circle, and the Drama Desk; the Obie; and four Tony Awards (best play, best actress in a play, best featured actress in a play, and best director). The play was published by Theatre Communications Group in 2005.
Set at a Catholic school in the Bronx in 1964, Doubt concerns an older nun, Sister Aloysius, who does not approve of teachers' offering friendship and compassion over the discipline she feels students need in order to face the harsh world. When she suspects a new priest of sexually abusing a student, she is faced with the prospect of charging him with unproven allegations and possibly destroying his career as well as her own. To help build her case, she asks for help from an idealistic young nun, who finds her faith in compassion challenged, and the mother of the accused boy, who is protective of her son, the first black student ever admitted to St. Nicholas.
Beginning in early 2002, the Catholic Church in the United States was embroiled in a high-profile scandal about priests who had had sexual relations with young students and parishioners, some incidents dating as far back as the time in which Shanley's play is set. Hundreds of victims came forward, and the Church, as of 2005, was facing lawsuits and undergoing reorganization, but the shock of the abuse of trust and the Catholic Church's attempts to cover up these crimes have left a scar on the public conscience. Doubt faces the unthinkable aspects of this situation with knowledge and restraint.