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Actor portrays priest with humor, reminiscence in 'Misgivings' one-man show

Rhode Island author, actor and media personality Dave Kane has been performing his one-man show "Misgivings" for almost 35 years. CC-BY-3.0 Devoidzer0 via Wikipedia

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BRAINTREE -- As a young altar server, Dave Kane wanted to become a priest when he grew up. Today, he is a husband and father, but he gets to inhabit the role of a priest in his one-man play, "Misgivings," a humorous tribute to Catholic clergy.

For almost 35 years, the Rhode Island-born actor has brought "Misgivings" to hundreds of audiences. In the play, he portrays an endearing, sharp-witted Irish priest, Father Patrick Aloysius Misgivings, who is based on the priest that Kane knew when he was an altar boy.

"'Misgivings' is a hopeful, loving show that comes from my own belief in the goodness of God," Kane said in a Sept. 16 interview.

Kane has been in the performing arts since childhood, and has worked in broadcasting since he was 14. He is also an author, television producer, and radio talk show host. He has brought "Misgivings" to audiences across New England. Though he has upcoming performances at Marilyn Rodman Performing Arts Center in Foxborough and the Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham, Kane prefers to perform the show for nonprofits as a fundraiser and does so on a per-head basis so people who book him are at no risk of losing money. He said he has had audiences as small as 13 people, while the largest had hundreds.

Over the course of the show, Kane's character shares stories and jokes about growing up Catholic. The play is interactive and includes an actual raffle and bingo game. Despite being a comedy, however, it also touches on some serious and potentially controversial topics. Kane's script ends with Father Misgivings finding and reading a letter from God, affirming that he loves all his children, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation.

"The message of the show is that God loves you no matter what," Kane said.

He has performed "Misgivings" not only for Catholic communities but also for people of different denominations and religions. He recalled one occasion when the person he picked to do the collection turned out to be Jewish. Kane, as Father Misgivings, replied that he had a Jewish boss, Jesus of Nazareth.

Audience members have told Kane that seeing "Misgivings" made them feel as though they had received permission to be proud of being Catholic.

"I'm told that people go out feeling forgiveness. I've been told that it makes them feel good about being Catholic again," Kane said.

He also reminds older audience members of the priests they knew while growing up.

"The older people reminisce, and the younger people get an education," Kane said.

He said that he feels a responsibility to portray the clergy well. He has many years of experience in standup comedy, so he knows how to handle hecklers, but he has to do it differently while remaining in character. If someone disrupts a performance, Kane tries to respond in a way that is consistent with the personality of Father Misgivings.

"I have to think very hard about how Father would respond to this, because I owe the audience a representation they want to see," he said.

Kane's audiences have included laypeople, clergy, religious, and even the bishop of Rhode Island. He has found that when clergy or religious are present, other audience members will look to them to see their reactions before laughing at his jokes.

Kane said he has learned that pastors set the tone for their parishes.

"If the pastor is a gregarious guy, has good sense of humor, then the parish will, too," he said.

Part of his aim, he said, is to show support for good priests, and help laypeople feel alright about liking priests.

"That good feeling these people have all had, they've got it in their hearts, and they want to get it back again, and this is what the show is trying to do," he said.

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