Brilliant.

I can’t think of a better way to describe “Faith Healer,” currently on stage at the Gamm Theatre in Warwick. Simple brilliance all around.

It’s a three-person show, based on the life and times of “the fantastic Frank Hardy.” He’s an itinerant healer, wandering the “forgotten corners” of the British Isles in the 1950s and 1960s. The show opens with Hardy (Tony Estrella) repeating the guttural-sounding names of villages he’s visited in the region as if they form a prayer. Hardy eases into telling us about his life and his travels, all in a monologue. 

Estrella’s delivery is so skillful, you’ll hang on every word. He doesn’t believe in his ability to heal, but he doesn’t think people come to see him for healing. They’re looking for him to “affirm the hopelessness of their cause.”

When Estrella’s monologue is over, there’s a quick moment of darkness, and Hardy’s wife Grace (Jeanine Kane) has taken the stage. She tells some of the same stories Hardy has shared, but with slightly different twists. 

Kane’s monologue is edgy and filled with nuanced movements. The lighting and stubbing out of cigarettes, the pouring and drinking of whiskey. She suggests but doesn’t describe a traumatic experience. 

A brief intermission follows, and Brandon Whitehead takes the stage as Frank’s larger-than-life manager, Teddy. He’s a show business veteran who gave up all his other clients to handle Frank. He tells many of the same stories as Frank and Grace, and lets us in on a little more of the trauma Grace suggested. He also gets some of the funniest moments in the show.

Teddy’s monologue ends and Estrella returns to the stage to wrap up the story. 

This is a remarkable bit of theater. First, the writing is superb, and the words are almost sung. Second, while there are three performers, there is no dialogue. Each actor has about a half hour to tell his story, and never interacts with the others. Third, in the telling of their stories, there are certain phrases and movements repeated by each actor, telling us that parts of the story are true within each person’s head. As Tony Estrella describes it in his Q&A with the director, the three characters “reveal both subtle and significant differences in the facts as they recall them, yet none is necessarily lying.”

“Faith Healer” marks Donnla Hughes’ directorial debut in the United States, and it’s a slam-dunk winner.

Students of acting should see “Faith Healer” as a master class in monologues. 

Brilliance all around.

“Faith Healer” runs through Sunday, January 29 at the Gamm Theatre on Jefferson Boulevard in Warwick. For tickets and information, call the box office at 401.723-4266 or visit www,gammtheatre.org/faith.


Frank O'Donnell

Frank O’Donnell has worn many different hats. As an actor, he’s performed in three professional theatrical productions and countless community theater productions. He’s written, produced and directed...