When Dan announces he wants to become a priest, those around him can't decide if it's the call of God or a cry for help.
When a loved one tells you they’ve heard God’s call, do you take them at their word, or do you ask them to seek treatment? That’s the dilemma presented in William Nedved’s new play when Dan (Nicholas Harazin), a self-described fuck-up who has lots of big plans but little follow-through, announces he’s decided to go into the priesthood.
This naturally comes as quite a shock to Leah (Cyd Blakewell), Dan’s girlfriend of three years, who assumed he was working up the nerve to propose. It’s not welcome news to Dan’s big sister Monica (Lynda Newton), either; though she’s a practicing Catholic, she sees Dan’s revelation as a sign of possible mental illness. And Father Alex (Gabriel Franken), the priest with whom Dan has been talking about his decision for several months, is none too pleased to learn Dan’s still living with the girlfriend he said he’d broken things off with.
It’s an intriguing question: How do you react when a guy with lifelong commitment issues suddenly comes down with a case of religious conviction? And Nedved takes some shrewd turns here. Dan’s announcement seems to set off a crisis of faith in Monica, who’s apparently decided her unseen 9-year-old son is gay and doesn’t know if she can worship in a church that won’t accept him unconditionally.
The state of the Catholic church in 2015 is of course touched on in conversations between Dan and Alex, with the latter interestingly proposing that there’s “never been a better time to become a priest” than in the midst of the current upheaval, when young clergy have the power to shape the church’s future.
The play, like the church, feels a bit like a work still in progress in Marti Lyons’s sensitive production for the Gift Theatre, of which Nedved was co-founder. A subplot about the religious rift that develops between Monica and her husband Mick (Stephen Spencer) goes frustratingly unresolved. And though Dan is at the center of every scene (and Harazin gives a thoughtful, yearning performance), his interior world remains as unknowable to us as it does to those around him. Then again, maybe that’s the point.
The Gift Theatre. By William Nedved. Directed by Marti Lyons. With Nicholas Harazin, Cyd Blakewell, Lynda Newton, Stephen Spencer, Gabriel Franken. Running time: 1hr 40mins; one intermission.