‘Faith Healer’ at Quotidian Theatre Company

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FIVE STARS 82x15
Quotidian Theatre Company’s production of Brian Friel’s play Faith Healer is a superlative exploration of the theme of the fallibility of memory versus reality.

Christopher Henley (Frank). Photo by  St. Johnn Blondell.
Christopher Henley (Frank). Photo by St. Johnn Blondell.

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.

Laura Russell (Grace). Photo by St. Johnn Blondell.
Laura Russell (Grace). Photo by St. Johnn Blondell.

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.”

Nick Sampson (Teddy). Photo by St. Johnn Blondell.
Nick Sampson (Teddy). Photo by St. Johnn Blondell.

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.

LINK
Directing Quotidian Theatre Company’s ‘Faith Healer’ by Laura Giannarelli.

 

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David Friscic
David has always had a passionate interest in the arts from acting in professional dinner theatre and community theatre to reviewing film and local theatre in college to making numerous treks to New York City to indulge his interest in live theatre. An enthusiastic interest in writing has shown itself in a BA in English/Education and an MA in English Literature. Taken together, these two interests have culminated in the logical conclusion of writing for an arts blog. David moved up and down the East Coast due to his father's job at General Electric and this has helped him to perceive the world in a very open way. After his schooling, David taught in Catholic school systems for awhile and, then, spent three years in the seminary with two years at Catholic University studying Theology and one year in a practicuum working at a church in New York State. David currently works at the National Science Foundation as a Technical Information Specialist for the Office of Polar Programs and has had the great opportunity to go to Antarctica twice and Greenland once in support of the research community. He enjoys living in Bethesda and has taken courses at the Writer's Center. David enjoys swimming, traveling, reading, and working on committees at his condo. His major interest, however, is the arts and all it encompasses---from symphony, to film, to museum treks to live theatre. He counts having lunch with Lillian Gish and meeting Lily Tomlin, Geraldine Page, Maureen Stapleton, Liza Minnelli and Sandy Dennis as some of the more exciting encounters of his life.

1 COMMENT

  1. 2 tix bought and looking forward. Monologues are tough to carry off. Don’t know Ms. Russell but Chris Henley and Nick Sampson are among the best. If you’re unfamiliar w/ Mr. Sampson, he’s gravitated to community theatre but has done work at Studio. He’s wry and witty w/ outstanding timing (and is really British). Most of us know Chris who headed up WSC/Bard and I always enjoy him. Kudos to Laura G who’s been so busy lately. Not surprised the sound is good; Nick Sampson is a pro with that, too, and may have lent her a bit of advice? Thx for review; never saw this one.

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