Above: Tony Estrella as Frank in the Gamm Theatre’s 2023 production of “Faith Healer.” Photo by Cat Laine for the Gamm Theatre
Is a faith healer an artist, an entertainer or a hand of god? All three? And what happens to the faith healer who himself gets confused about the differences? Those are the questions at the heart of the Gamm Theatre’s compelling new production of Faith Healer by famed Irish playwright Brian Friel.
As played by Gamm Artistic Director Tony Estrella, faith healer Frank Hardy is fully aware of his limitations but when the magic happens – as sometimes it does – he is in thrall.
The play opens with Frank onstage, talking about life on the road being a faith healer, blowing into town after town for “one night only!” as the show’s banner proclaims. His traveling companions, his wife (mistress?) Grace (Jeanine Kane), and his manager, Teddy (Brandon Whitehead), each take the stage after him to deliver monologues of their own. They recount shared experiences from distinctly different points of view and, not infrequently, different sets of facts as well.
The highlight of Frank’s career is one strange night in Wales where it seems at first no one has come to see the show, then suddenly 10 people arrive, each with some type of ailment. Frank cures them all and he carries around a folded up piece of newspaper with the story of that remarkable night as a talisman (even though it misspells Frank’s last name –Harding, not Hardy).
Grace is a wreck, living a post-Frank life. She and Teddy are the ones who tell of a tragedy at the core of Grace and Franks’s splintered relationship. The event marks a turning point for the play, though not a point of no return. Frank departs and comes back. The three of them travel to Ireland, land of Frank and Grace’s birth, to a fateful night when one cure prompts the need for another. But that cure is not as readily available and Frank must make a decision.
A play consisting of only monologues is rare and demands that viewers pay attention. It is a stirring tale and the individual stories are well told, though this viewer found Frank’s second stint on the stage more compelling than his first.
The accents are top rate, as director Donnla Hughes promised.
Learn more about the production and get tickets HERE.