note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone
at 2nd Story Theatre, Warren, RI
The current show at 2nd Story Theatre is "Mass Appeal" which is a two character play by Bill C. Davis. This comedy-drama focuses on the conflict between a complacent Roman Catholic pastor and the young idealistic deacon who is assigned to his affluent, suburban parish. It examines a struggle between right and wrong between its two characters, Father Farley and a young priest in training, Mark Dolson. The central religious discussions include should women and celibate gay men be priests. Director Ed Shea casts these two roles splendidly and elicits strong nuanced performances from them.
The beautiful in the round set is by Max Ponticelli. Veteran actor Bob Colonna commands the stage as Father Farley as he captures the essence of a well seasoned priest who can enthrall his parishioners with his exuberant tales. The argument scenes with his younger counterpart crackle and sizzle with intensity. However there are many comic moments thrown in along the way including like comparing the success of the collection to the Nielson ratings as well as titling sermons as jelly donut sermon. Also funny is when he yells at the Monsignor on the phone that he hated the trip to Yugoslavia.
Both the older and younger man learn lessons from each other along the way and become changed from them. David Sackal tackles the role of the younger priest excellently. He displays the idealistic as well as his contrasting views of what is right with his elder priest. He has some comic moments including when parishioners drop their hymnals and cough when they don't like a sermon so he launches into a tirade about how the church is becoming obsolete. The younger man confronts his elder as being into show biz theology and by bending the truth to suit his needs. The unseen third figure is the omnipotent Monsignor who disapproves of Mark's hot temper and need for tact.
So for a very appealing, well acted and directed dramedy, be sure to catch "Mass Appeal" before time runs out. Even though it was written in the 1980's it resonates with contemporary audiences.