Mass Appeal | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Mass Appeal, Gemini Productions, at Stage Left Theatre. God knows, this new production of Bill C. Davis's oft-produced play about an older priest who befriends a fiery young seminarian isn't perfect. Baby-faced Michael Hodge looks far too young for the seasoned Father Tim Farley, while Jim Phetterplace Jr., with his thinning hair and bald spot, seems too old for a seminarian in his early 20s. Moreover Phetterplace, who also directs, sometimes delivers his lines too quickly and without enough conviction, as if he were having trouble staying focused and in character.

Yet these are just distractions. At a deeper level everything works fine. Hodge's performance as the older priest, who sleepwalks through his job and anesthetizes himself with glass after glass of burgundy, is wonderful. And Hodge and Phetterplace's visceral chemistry suggests both the bonds that inevitably develop between a mentor and his protege and deeper, repressed homoerotic feelings--very important in a play about the conflict between playing the game and speaking your mind, especially when the battleground is the church. --Jack Helbig

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