The Faith Healer, a masterpiece by Irish playwright Brian Friel, is performed masterfully at the Gamm Theater. It only plays through January 29 and should not be missed.
The story is told in four monologues, the opening and closing by Frank (Tony Estrella), the faith healer; his loyal wife, Grace (Jeanine Kane); and manager, Teddy (Brandon Whitehead). Truth is subjective, a matter of perception as each character presents their version of the same events, and their journey through rural Wales and Scotland, playing in church halls, waiting for the afflicted to arrive.
There is a relationship between actor and audience, as each character shares his or her version of events, hopeful the audience accepts their version as the truthful depiction of the life of the faith healer as a “creative artist.”
We are told of the occasional successes as Frank questions where his talent came from, Grace clings to the belief of Frank as an artist, and Teddy questions that artistry, while alluding to Frank’s occasional cruelty toward Grace.
Each of the three actors – Estrella, Kane, and Whitehead – delivers outstanding performances, commanding the stage and delivering monologues that are at times heart-wrenching and other times, humorous.
Director Donnla Hughes, originally from Ireland, making her U.S. directing debut, was exceptional.
Here’s how the script describes the characters:
FRANK: A “middle-aged; grey or greying, pale, lined face. The overcoat (he is wearing) is unbuttoned, the collar up at the back; either navy or black and of heavy-nap material; a good coat once but now shabby stained, slept-in. Underneath he is wearing a dark suit that is polished with use; narrow across the shoulders; sleeves and legs too short. A soiled white shirt. A creased tie. Vivid green socks.” Teddy describes him as a drunkard, a “two bottles of whiskey a day” man.
GRACE: In the script Grace Hardy speaks of herself: “But I am getting stronger, I am becoming more controlled – I’m sure I am. I measure my progress – a silly index, I know, and he would certainly have scoffed at it – but I can almost measure my progress by the number of hours I sleep and the amount I drink and the number of cigarettes I smoke. And, as they say, I’ve a lot to be thankful for; I know I have.” Frank describes Grace as “correct, methodical, orderly,” someone who “fed me, washed and ironed for me, nursed me, humored me. Saved me, I’m sure, from drinking myself to death”.
TEDDY: The faith healer, Frank Hardy, says of his manager, Teddy: “Yes, let me tell you about Teddy, my manager, Cockney. Buoyant. Cheerful. Tiny nimble feet. Dressed in cord jacket, bowtie, greasy velour hat. I never knew much about his background except that he had been born into show business. And I never understood why he stayed with me because we barely scraped a living. But he had a devotion to me, and I think he had a vague sense of being associated with something…spiritual and gave him satisfaction. If you met him in a bar, he’d hold you with those brown eyes of his.”
Tickets are available by calling The Gamm Theatre, 401-723-4266, or vising the website: www.gammtheatre.org.