Mass Appeal: Final Valley Summer Theatre play on stage at the Whittle

Wendy Elliott
Published on July 30, 2014

Halifax actor Lee J. Campbell, left, plays Father Tim Farley, while Sean Robertson plays Seminary student Mark Dolson in Valley Summer Theatre’s new play, Mass Appeal. - Submitted


Valley Summer Theatre’s third play of the season is about a beloved Catholic priest and a passionate young seminarian determined to make issues part of his preaching.

Mass Appeal is the most produced play by prolific American playwright Bill C. Davis. Written in 1980, it quickly became a Broadway hit.

The play is a two-character, comedy-drama focusing on a complacent Roman Catholic pastor and an idealistic young deacon who is assigned to his affluent suburban parish.

Well-known Halifax actor Lee J. Campbell plays Father Tim Farley, an experienced priest who is popular with his congregation, while young Seminary student Mark Dolson, performed by Sean Robertson, wants to challenge tradition.

While the play deals with issues facing the Catholic church in the early 1980s, producer Bruce Klinger believes it deals with issues the church still faces today. He sees the play as a generational conflict that could apply to just about any workplace.

Campbell, who has wanted to perform the script since he was young enough to play the Seminarian, thinks audiences at the Al Whittle Theatre will see the heart and humour in the script.

Robertson finds it relevant for today, but says he still sat with Father John MacPherson of St. Francis of Assisi Church to have a thousand questions answered. Campbell, who has a Catholic background, says anyone will find the search for tolerance, growth and honesty has appeal.

“It could be about two businessmen,” he said. “I keep thinking of the old cowboy movies where the older cowboy waits and thinks out the battle between the young and the old.”

Campbell was last in Wolfville for Gin Game in Valley Summer Theatre’s first season. He recently performed in Ibsen’s Ghosts and has been directing for Live Bait Theatre.

Robertson, who hails from Chester, forged his career in Toronto musicals. He also performed in the world premiere of Anne and Gilbert at the Victoria Playhouse. Both actors have taught at Neptune Theatre School.

Mass Appeal will run until Aug. 17. Pamela Halstead is director, while Vicki Marston, Kathryn MacLellan and Peter Conroy have returned as set, costume and lighting designers.

Tickets can be purchased at the Box of Delights Bookstore in Wolfville, by calling toll free to 1-877-845-1341 or online from

Ticket prices will be $30 regular and $23 for students (tax included). Two and three play subscriptions will also be available.