Through January 28
FAITH HEALER Andrews Theatre/Irish Classical Theatre Company
By Augustine Warner
Some people have amazing powers: the punt returner who runs the length of the field and through the entire opposing team or the guard who sinks a shot from mid-court to win a title or the golfer who hits the pin from a hundred yards to win a tournament or the student who cracks the mystery of a math formula to emerge as the top student in her class.
Frank Hardy is different, a fictional character in one of Brian Friel’s greatest plays who has the power…occasionally…to cure the sick and restore life.
He’s the core of the fascinating and structurally interesting “Faith Healer” which is getting a wonderful production from the Irish Classical Theatre Company.
For ICTC customers, it’s a familiar play, twice performed in the past with the late Chris O’Neill as Francis Hardy.
Friel’s structure is like nothing I can remember seeing before, even from Harold Pinter.
This is a three-character play performed as four monologues, two from Hardy (Paul Todaro).
The others are from his wife Grace (Margaret Massman) and from Teddy (a marvelous Vincent O’Neill), the promoter of their endless tours in England and Scotland.
Frank and Grace are both Irish but until the very end, they haven’t gone across the Irish Sea again in years, (except for funerals).
Instead, it’s an endless list of small towns the three have visited for a one-night appearance by Frank.
It’s also the site of a personal tragedy for Frank and Grace when she delivered a stillborn baby in the back of their van, stuck on a hill above the desperately rural port of Kinlochbervie in a far corner of Scotland.
They buried the baby in a pasture and moved on, at least physically, once the van was repaired.
It’s another of those problems Frank can’t resolve with his erratic talent.
The show opens with Frank lamenting the life he, Grace and Teddy lead and closes with him moving into, perhaps, a fatal scuffle outside a pub in Ireland.
Grace talks about the dead baby and just a little about the life she abandoned as the daughter of an important judge and a career as a solicitor.
He talks about a long career as a P.T. Barnum of strange entertainment, like the dog who could play bagpipes and his years with the faith healer.
This is late in life and Teddy and Grace live only a few blocks apart in London’s Paddington neighborhood and haven’t met in years.
Director Josephine Hogan and lighting designer Jayson Clark have chosen to tell this dark story with very subdued lighting, enhancing Friel’s story.
Friel ties this whole story together in unusual ways, including lines of dialogue used by all three performers and the Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields song “The Way You Look Tonight,” sung by Fred Astaire.
Teddy played the recording at every appearance by Frank Hardy and, over and over again, during his monologue, perhaps a Friel counterpoint to Astaire’s singing the number’s original appearance in the Astaire and Ginger Rogers classic love story “Swing Time,” a couple which wound up better than Frank and Grace.
“Faith Healer” is a fascinating and penetrating mix of depressing story and wonderful roles for the three performers.
It’s also a must see.
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