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Photo Credit :: Faith Healer
Arts & Entertainment
Faith Healer at the Booth Theater
by Mark Thompson & Robert Doyle
August 10, 2006 
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If you were very lucky when you were very young, your grandmother may have put you to bed, and as she tucked you in and pulled the covers round your chin, she may have continued telling you a story she’d started the night before. No matter that it was summer and the night not completely dark, you could hardly wait to climb into bed and hear her story.

That same sense of anticipation fills you as you sit in the darkened Booth Theatre and hear the incantation of Welsh place names which start three of the four monologues which comprise Brian Friel’s Faith Healer. With a gentle swoosh of the stage curtain, not unlike a bucket of water tossed across a floor, we shift from Frank’s perspective on his life as an itinerant mountebank to his wife Grace’s remembrances of their marriage, and ultimately to Frank’s manager, the indefatigable Teddy, who attempts to recount the events leading to the night in question. On a coal-dark stage, with soot-blackened walls, and with a pitch-black fireplace emanating little or no warmth, the three characters take their turns, one after another, and reveal their version of the life which has brought them to this place.

As Frank Hardy, Ralph Fiennes reveals the inner torment of all artists who search for validation in their work, never certain, always questioning, while attempting to allay doubt. Charismatic, at times, and ruthlessly charming, Frank burns with the need to rise above his father’s station, and to merit the faith placed in him – not only by those who seek him in the seedy halls of rural Wales, but also by Teddy, and particularly Grace.

To hear Cherry Jones as Grace is to perhaps feel a slight disconnect as her Yorkshire accent wobbles with her emotional state – and yet there’s no question that Ms. Jones is fully inhabiting the pain which marks Grace’s life with Frank. Defying her father, and uncompromisingly loyal to Frank, Grace is a soul trapped between two abusers, men who see her only as a reflection of themselves.

And meanwhile, Teddy, beautifully played by Ian McDiarmid, watches in mesmeric disbelief. Never before in all his years of managing truculent and temperamental stage acts has he encountered such a strange and hypnotically dysfunctional pair on a seemingly irreversible course of self-destruction. Knowing he should have waved goodbye long ago, he cannot bear to let them go on without him, doomed as they are, and him an almost-accomplice.

Follow along, we all do, behind the falsely-soothing rush of Welsh place names as the characters make their way through Scotland and Wales, and ultimately, back to Ireland, from whence they have come and for so long been running. For there’s no denying the darkness. You can’t go home again when it never was home, not the one you needed it to be. And when the end comes, as almost surely you knew it would, and when you realize you knew all along, nonetheless, you can’t help but wish— You wish to hear more.