Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Mass Appeal"

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note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Little Theatre of Fall River's first summer show of their 82nd season at the Fire Barn is "Mass Appeal", a two character play by Bill Davis. This comedy/drama focuses on the conflict between a complacent Roman Catholic pastor at an affluent parish and the young idealistic deacon who is assigned to his 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? Father Farley is popular with his parishioners due to his charm, wit and entertaining sermons while Mark is a firebrand eager to change the church. He enjoys attacking the older man's "song and dance" theology and also questions why he drinks so much. Mark feels it is his duty to shake up the parishioners but Farley sees that he won't succeed as a priest if all he does is irritate them and make enemies. Each man has something to teach the other in this well written show. Director Aaron Gendreau-Visco casts these two roles marvelously and elicits performances from both of them. He also designed a terrific unit set for the show, too.

Bob Gillet who is a fabulous director, plays Father Farley. He makes this affable priest into a real human being that the audience can relate to. Bob also captures the essence of a well seasoned priest who knows how to handle his parishioners with his exuberant tales in his sermons. He brings out the comic aspects of the character wonderfully especially the drunken scene when he tells off Monsignor Burke. However the argument scenes with the younger priest also crackle and sizzle with high energy, making you sit on the edge of your seats. Some of the comic moments include comparing the success of the collection to the Nielson ratings, calling a sermon, the jelly donut sermon and when he tells the Monsignor on the phone that he hated his photos from Barcelona. Great to see Bob performing onstage again.

Tackling the role of Mark Dolson is Ian Vincent. He plays this spunky energetic young man to the excellently, making the transition to more compassionate person in the second act with his tropical fish sermon and when he tells Father Farley what you believe is more important than what your parishioners think of you. He displays the idealistic views of a younger priest to be with the contrasting views of the elder priest. Both men learn lessons from each other and become changed by them. Ian has some comic moments along the way when parishioners drop their hymnals and cough when they are not interested in a sermon. When these two things happen to him, he goes on a tirade about the church becoming obsolete. Mark confronts Father Farley as being into show biz theology, by drinking too much to escape his problems and bending the truth to suit his own needs. Ian is terrific as this young man who shows his disappointment when the Monsignor disapproves of his actions. The third unseen figure in this show is the omnipotent Monsignor who disapproves of Mark's hot temper and lack of tact. He wants him to be more understanding to the congregations needs. So for a very appealing, well acted and directed comedy/drama, be sure to catch "Mass Appeal" before time runs out. Even though this show was written in the 1980's, it still resonates with contemporary audiences in 2016.

MASS APPEAL (16 to 26 June)
Little Theatre of Fall River, Fire Barn, 340 Prospect St., Fall River, MA
1(508)675-1852 or

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