Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires
Also see Fred's recent reviews of Just Another Day and Here You Come Again: How Dolly Saved My Life in 12 Easy Songs
Frank Hardy (Christopher Innvar) has traveled through Ireland, Scotland, and Wales where he claims to have cured many of those in need. Innvar presents this individual as one who is loud, angry, and probably insecure as he proclaims all he's accomplished. Frank is neither a consistent miracle worker nor has he been a sterling partner for Grace (Gretchen Egolf). Frank never measures up to his self-assessment of his worth. Innvar's grasp and delivery of the lengthy opening monologue, however, evolves into a passionate conversation brought directly to those watching. It is impossible for anyone in the theater to deflect or ignore Frank's declarative, sometimes troublesome words.
Grace (Egolf) subjugates herself for Frank and she has suffered through various tragic events, including the birth of a stillborn child. The woman smokes one cigarette after another as she speaks. Frank begins the play with a listing of decaying villages and Grace does much the same when she takes the stage solo. A tortured woman, she tells us, "But I am getting stronger, I am becoming more controlled–I'm sure I am." Her depiction of time and journey with Frank vastly differs from his account. Toward the end of her speech, she says she is "one of his fictions, too." What, this play demands, is reality?
Compared to the other characters, Mark H. Dold's Teddy is animated rather than disturbingly agitated as are Frank and Grace. Teddy, drinking bottle after bottle of ale, is able, through lively discourse, to briefly break away from the hovering specter of doom. As he plays a record of Fred Astaire singing the Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields song "The Way You Look Tonight," the moment serves as a respite. Teddy manages Frank's career as an itinerant healer, and he provides his take on his client and much more. Dold is a jaunty Teddy during the first portion of his segment and lends a few dashes of comedy to an otherwise serious if not severe evening. That lighter mood is fleeting.
Frank returns with a shorter monologue to close the evening, a cumulative experience which is mentally trying and fatiguing. Once again, he recites names of some of the villages and then asks, "But I've told you all that, haven't I?" This is not easy fare. Rather, it's upsetting through its brilliant intensity.
Boyd, who founded this company years ago and only last season retired as its artistic leader, has long wished to stage The Faith Healer and she brings a cast of actors who are BSC Associate Artists, at the top of the profession. Without the opportunity to interact with one another, each performer must make a fast connection with observers. The performers are terrific with detail, facial expression, and mastery of character. Innvar, Egolf, and Dold (in order of appearance) never waver. Amongst them, the three carry listings of credits inclusive of appearances on and off Broadway and at multiple regional theaters. Boyd adeptly maximizes the performance space to complement Friel's language, which is transportive. For the most part, this play requires a dreary look, which scenic designer Luciana Stecconi furnishes. David Lander's lighting shifts whenever necessary.
The monologues reveal conflicted, sometimes convoluted individuals, and the throughline of Friel's play is a dismaying one. Theatre patrons seeking happiness should stay away, but those willing to join, to delve into a less than attractive realm, need to experience this production: it is superlative if at times enervating.
Faith Healer runs through August 27, 2023, at Barrington Stage Company, St. Germain Stage, 30 Union St., Pittsfield MA. For tickets and information, please call 413-236-8888 or visit barringtonstageco.org.