Father Timothy Farley has always preached about miracles – now he has to perform one.
Father Tim Farley, a lover of the good things in life, is comfortably ensconced as priest of a prosperous Catholic congregation. Without realizing it, he has resorted to flattering his parishioners and entertaining them with sermons that skirt any disturbing issues, in order to protect his Mercedes, his trips abroad and the generous supply of fine wines that grace his table (and his desk drawer). His well-ordered world is disrupted by the arrival of Mark Dolson, an intense and idealistic young seminarian whom Father Farley reluctantly agrees to take under his wing. There is immediate conflict between the two as the younger man challenges the older priest’s sybaritic ways, while Father Farley is appalled by Mark’s confession that he had led a life of bisexual promiscuity before entering the priesthood. In the final essence their confrontation is a touching yet very funny examination of the nature of friendship, courage and the infinite variety of love, as the older man is reminded of the firebrand he once was, and the younger comes to realize that forbearance is as vital to the Christian ethic as righteousness.
Adult Tickets – $35
Student Tickets – $20
As the play opens, we meet Father Tim Farley (Tim Kough), a charming church leader and agile parish politician who is beloved by his “flock.” Father Farley maintains his comfortable lifestyle by flattering and entertaining his parishioners with witty sermons that skirt troubling issues. His non-confrontational style never makes waves. He tactfully avoids challenging anyone’s ideas or core beliefs. In return, he is lavished with affection and support by his congregants. He drives a Mercedes, travels abroad, and enjoys a generous supply of fine wines he receives from church members. Farley’s jovial and easy-going style has maintained his popularity for many years… a popularity he tracks by what he calls the ”Nielsen ratings” of the offerings received in the Sunday collection plate.
Into this complacent environment comes Mark Dolson (R.J. Cecott) one Sunday morning during mass. Dolson is a brash, idealistic and hotheaded young seminarian who is eager to challenge the comfortable banality he sees in this church. As Father Farley leads a dialogue sermon on the question, “Should women be priests?” the young firebrand shakes up the parishioners – and Father Farley – by challenging the older priest’s mainline stance on the ordination of women. After this rocky beginning, Farley learns that he has been assigned to mentor this young seminarian in the diplomacy of the priesthood, because, as Dolson himself puts it, “tact is something I need to learn.”
As the older pragmatic priest faces off against this idealistic young seminarian, a relationship develops that transcends religious dogma and the old arguments of traditionalists versus reformers. The two men each grow and change, both in their faith and in their humanity, as they come to know and better understand each other. Their relationship develops from one of mentor and pupil into an abiding friendship tempered by mutual respect. That friendship is then forged when the young seminarian faces a personal crisis at the seminary – a crisis that compels Father Farley to make a profound choice that could change both of their lives.
Is it possible a friendship as unlikely as this one might create something more than either man could expect – perhaps a deeper understanding of what it means to be human? A more profound religious faith? Even a kind of redemption?
Well, as the old saying goes, “God works in mysterious ways.”
Executive and Artistic Director of Oil Lamp Theater and director of this production Keith Gerth feels that Mass Appeal embodies many of the ideals that motivate the work of the Oil Lamp Theater. As he writes, “Throughout our history we have stayed true to a philosophy that believes in the inherent goodness and strength of the human spirit – a resiliency… Central to every story that we tell on our stage is a belief in the redemptive quality of the human spirit. From our annual holiday show about George Bailey to this story of Father Farley – we explore characters that are faced with challenges to their ways of thinking and living. Through our telling of these stories, we strive to lift the spirit of our audiences – to encourage each person to take these stories and make them part of his or her daily journey.”
Directed by Keith Gerth
Stage Manager: Brontë DeShong
Father Tim Farley
Understudy - Father Tim Farley
Understudy - Mark Dolson