Thoughts & Musings

Lots of appeal to 2nd Story’s ‘Mass Appeal’

A terrific performance by veteran Bob Colonna is only one of the reasons to check out this play.

by Channing Gray, Providence Journal
  • 21st March 201621/03/16
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You should check out 2nd Story Theatre’s wonderful “Mass Appeal” just to catch a rare showing by Bob Colonna as the priest who is willing to say anything to his flock except the truth. He’s terrific.

But Bill C. Davis’ play is not too shabby either. It’s a witty but stinging tale of an idealistic seminarian going up against a popular priest who only wants approval. And that’s hardly breaking news.

The way Davis charts the interaction of this cast of two, though, is masterful, as Colonna’s Father Farley tries to bring David Sackal’s Mark Dolson — a frank, somewhat angry underling — along as a priest.

Try infusing your sermon’s with something personal, like the jelly doughnuts you liked as a kid, says Farley. Get the congregation to like you.

Dolson gives it a shot, but soon explodes in a diatribe about how people are more concerned with their Botox injections than the church.

This causes something of a firestorm among the elders, who tell Father Farley it’s time to rein in his young charge, who has not only lost points for his brash sermon but for his past sexual exploits.

But the shift Colonna makes after that is masterful. At first, he comes off as something of a buffoon, a likable buffoon, but someone out to win a popularity contest, in between swigs of Glenlivet. But maybe it’s his admiration for Dolson’s passion for telling it like it is, maybe he’s sick of defending him against narrow-minded church elders, but eventually Farther Farley finds his voice, and it’s a stunning moment of theater.

Again, Colonna is terrific in this play, despite an early line flub. He’s got that dry, understated delivery, where he never has to work for a laugh but is just a riot. Of course, that’s the master’s touch that comes from a lifetime on the stage.

Sackal played off him nicely, making for a wonderful dance shaped by the expert direction of Ed Shea.

And while the show is about the Catholic church, it could be about any religion, any organization, where the status quo is resistant to change and the truth is an uncomfortable thing to encounter.

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