This intimate play consisting of three characters is a Rashomon-like study of three characters who all have successive, lengthy monologues about similar circumstances but they all differ markedly in the re-telling. Irish playwright Friel’s verbal intricacy and the reflective quality of his writing is brought vividly to life by the superb cast and especially by the clean, crisp directorial hand of Director Laura Giannarelli. Giannarelli has a deeply intuitive understanding of Friel’s style for she understands the contradictions and complexities of this group of characters.
Truly, aside from this marvelous text, the standout of this play is the absolutely stunning acting by the three actors in this fine production. The main character, Faith Healer Frank Hardy (Christopher Henley), is a charismatic, cunning, and charming individual who is given the task of the lengthy opening and closing monologues. It is to actor Christopher Henley’s credit that he holds our attention in each and every movement he makes. Henley creates a Faith Healer full of false bravado, tawdry sham, and utter theatricality.
As his much abused mistress, Grace, Laura Russell is above perfection in her inherent grasp of every subtle nuance and inflection of the drama and bleak wit of Friel’s writing. I could not take my eyes off Russell for even a second; she is totally immersed in her character whether she is in rage or in bemused reflection of the ironies of her situation. Russell possesses a beautiful and moving tone to her voice and she often reminded me of the underrated and brilliant actress Kathy Baker (of television’s past shows Picket Fences and Boston Public).
As the manager of Hardy, the character of Teddy would, indeed, have to put up with a lot and the fine, solid acting of Nick Sampson portrays the defensive posture, mordant wit and pragmatism of this interesting character. Particularly alternately hilarious and appropriately repulsive is the story that Teddy narrates about his dog.
On the technical side of things, mention must be made of the fascinating Set Design by Jack Sbarbori, who also provided the Set Construction with John Decker. In the middle of the small stage is a replica of a meeting hall or revival space complete with the spectators’ empty chairs, lectern and sign/banner. Stage Left portrays an atmospheric sitting area with chair and lamp as does Stage Right. The scenic elements are simple, decorative, well thought-out and effective. Costume Design by Stephanie Mumford is very apt for the tone of this play. Sound Design by Laura Giannarelli is especially good and is highlighted by the recurring utilization of Jerome Kern’s “The Way You Look Tonight.”
For an evening of exceptional acting and absorbing, evocative writing held together with brilliant directing, do not miss Quotidian Theatre’s Faith Healer.
Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission.
Faith Healer plays through May 25, 2014 at Quotidian Theatre Company performing at The Writer’s Center-4508 Walsh Street, in Bethesda, MD. For tickets, call (800) 838-3006 Ext.1, or purchase them online.
Directing Quotidian Theatre Company’s ‘Faith Healer’ by Laura Giannarelli.