Audition material is not always easy to find. In fact, a good script is difficult to find even before the hunting for a monologue or cut-worthy scene. However, Bill C. Davis’ “Mass Appeal” is an engaging and intelligent two-man drama with several long pieces to mine for material.
Is a priest also a performer? How genuine must the performance be, and how deeply must it delve into the faith of the speaker and the congregation? These and many more questions are inferred throughout this story of morality and spin.
Tim is a well-established father in his parish and is quite well-loved. Mark is a seminarian with a penchant for questioning conventions within the faith. The two meet when Mark breaks the norm of simply listening to one of Tim’s sermons and questions him in front of his congregation during mass. After this incident, Tim and Mark are thrust together as teacher and student to continue Mark’s precarious path toward the cloth. The relationship strains on many levels as the two build trust for each other while also clashing over what it means to truly shepherd the flock.
The character of Tim provides a great contrast between the kind nature of a beloved priest and the manipulative nature of a man whose identity comes from being loved. Mark, by contrast, is less concerned with public opinion and more concerned with upholding the integrity of the church’s values through challenging traditions within the faith long taken for granted.
There are a number of lengthy passages in the script that seem as though they warrant a look. And they do. However, most of them would not hold interest for long as stand-alone pieces. But those that do are very human and touching even outside the play.
Tim has two sections with audition potential. The first takes place in Act 1, Scene 5 after a particularly offensive sermon from Mark in the previous scene. Tim is explaining how hard he has had to work to become as loved as he is in the parish, and ends with questioning Mark’s performance.
Tim’s second piece is in Act 2, Scene 4 near the end of the play. He is delivering a sermon that is intended to be a rally to defend Mark from church politics. But Tim’s need to be loved by his congregation quickly robs him of his conviction and he progressively caves more and more as the speech progresses. It has a sense of heartbreak and weakness that is quite lovely.
Mark has a couple sermons that seem audition-worthy, but some of the writing is a little too deeply melancholy to serve as engaging singular material. With some cutting, there might be something in his final scene with Tim, though. The material in the scene begins with Mark’s account of Tim’s selfishness in dealing with his congregation. With some work put into a good transition, it could possibly carry through into his outlook on being loved by others.