Brian Friel’s profound and imposing tale of faith healer Frank Hardy (Tony Estrella), his wife Grace (Jeannine Kane) and his manager Teddy (Brandon Whitehead) is told in a series of monologues, …
Brian Friel’s profound and imposing tale of faith healer Frank Hardy (Tony Estrella), his wife Grace (Jeannine Kane) and his manager Teddy (Brandon Whitehead) is told in a series of monologues, with the actors attempting to explain their relationships, motivations and actions to the audience.
The three characters travel the small towns of the British Isles offering a “show” built around Frank’s ability, or failure, to heal everything from gout to broken fingers.
As the three tell their stories, we realize that they are not always in sync. Are they lying? Are they merely seeing things differently?
Frank is a complicated man. If you believe Grace, he has driven her to madness. She claims Frank has humiliated her. Frank sees her as an occasional roadblock to his “artistry.”
Frank knows that his talent doesn’t always work, but “occasionally a miracle happened.”
Long soliloquies require talented, experienced actors who can grab audience members and hold their attention for long periods of time.
Estrella and Kane have long been known for their ability to work together as a team. In “Faith Healer” they ARE a team; they are just not on the stage at the same time.
After 20 years in Seattle, Whitehead landed at Gamm, where he proved his talents as a Shakespearean actor. The role of Teddy provides both comic relief and poignancy. Whitehead has perfect timing, being able to change the mood with a simple gesture, an inflection, or a swig of beer.
All three actors are members of Actors Equity and have their roles controlled so well that you don’t know when they are telling the truth or merely unsure of the past.
Director Donnla Hughes adds subtleties to the play that draw you closer to the action. The characters are in constant motion. The smell and sight of the smoke of the stage cigarettes and the smell of actual beer fill the room.
Profanity is used once, and it shakes you.
“Faith Heaaler” runs two and a half hours with one intermission, and it never drags.
Audience members will take different things from this play. Personally, I recall the days when faith healers filled the Providence Civic Center.
I did a story in the mid-seventies about Katherine Kullman who “cured” a lame man, luring him to get out of his wheelchair and walk.
I talked with his nurse after the “show.” He told me that the man could always walk. He just didn’t want to.
Such might have been the power of Fantastic Frank Hardy.
“Faith Healer” is at Warwick’s Gamm Theatre through Jan. 29. Call 723-4266 for reservations.
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