Theatre Review: Faith Healer
Lengthy but lovely. All language, no fluff. Genuine storytelling. This four-monologue play from the mind of Brian Friel is not a cheery act, but a dense, rich and complicated work.
You won’t find an actual exhibition of “faith healing,” during Henley Street’s production of Faith Healer, staged at the SPARC Center for the Performing Arts. Instead, you’ll discover a story full of questions. From the characters questioning their purposes and gifts, to the viewer doubting the validity of the three characters’ facts, the investigations are never ending.
Faith Healer stars Joe Pabst as Francis (Frank) Hardy, the egotistical yet insecure performer, and at times, miracle-man. Pabst’s impressive presence and resounding voice mimic the tales of Frank’s dominance, while the full use of his facility and space draw the audience in easily. His recitation of over a dozen, difficult to pronounce, Welsh villages (that could be at first mistaken for speaking in tongues) is a ritual Pabst executes well. Whether a true healer, or self-proclaimed healer, Frank repeatedly explains, he “always knows when nothing is going to happen.”
Katie McCall is convincing as Grace, Frank’s wife (or mistress, depending on whom you believe.) McCall cultivates a nervous energy amidst her tremors, chain-smoking and heavy drinking, which sweeps through the audience and pulls you straight to the eye of Grace’s agonizing storm.
Williamsburg award-winning actor Ron Reid, plays Frank’s promoter and friend, Teddy. Reid was effortlessly the feature of the show. He brings a refreshing lightness, to the otherwise heavy content, with his charming cockney accent and comedic energy. Reid (effectively cast as the small man with tiny, nimble feet) impressively guzzles down a six pack of beer in his 50 minute conversation with the audience, slowly re-emerging as a sentimental and grim Teddy at his monologue’s conclusion.
Director James Ricks took advantage of the limited space well, allowing for immediate intimacy with the viewers. As set and sound designer, Ricks complemented the stage with simple props and sets, which always spotlighted a specific chair(s), fitting to each character’s personality. Andrew Bonniwell’s lighting helped direct focus and attention while heightening the emotional environment. Margarette Joyner’s costumes are relevant and accurate in period costume.
I appreciated that Ricks kept editing to a minimum, and discovered that Reid recanted prior suggestions to condense Teddy’s monologue, all in preserving the lyricism in Friel’s script. As I sadly heard a snore to my left and glimpsed two dozing heads to my front, I had to wonder- could Henley Street’s production of Faith Healer have done with further editing… or was this audience’s older demographic, and the later time of evening, playing devil’s advocate here?
There is some reality to be found among all the uncertainty, but the audience will have a challenge. It’s not a relaxing, entertaining show. It’s a conversation that the viewer will need to actively engage in and follow with the actors. If you’re looking for something different, you can be sure to find many surprising and enthralling moments at Faith Healer, and there will be an abundance of discussion on the drive home.
Faith Healer, showing at the SPARC Center for the Performing Arts, runs through Feb. 23. Showtimes are Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Thursday (Feb. 21) at 8pm, and Sunday (Feb. 17th)at 2pm. Talk-backs with Pastor Alex Evans, from Second Presbyterian Church, along with the cast and director, will follow the 2pm performances. Tickets are $30 for Adults, $25 for Seniors, $20 for Students, and $15 for industry night (Feb. 19).
A recent NYC transplant, I'm a writer, dancer, foodie, clothing lover, and sriracha supporter. Having lived in RVA for seven years, I completely adore the River City, and still spend as many days as I can rock-laying on the James. A self proclaimed "vintage voyeur," I think the arts scene of any city can reveal so much... not only about our past, but also our modern day, and where we need to go from here.
By combining the color drained world of 1984 with the color saturated carnival atmosphere of Ubu, Ricks finds dual despotic regimes that offer the same soulless outcomes.September 26, 2016
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