Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 25, 2009

Faith Healer

Berkshire Theatre, Stockbridge
through July 4, 2009
By Barbara Stroup

Berkshire Theatre Festival starts its season of "theatre that matters" with "Faith Healer." This three-character play revolves around Francis Hardy who offers the Welsh and Scottish locals one night only performances. Waited on and accompanied by his wife Grace and manager Teddy, Francis uses a spoken incantation of Welsh village names as a mantra to quell the self-doubt inside, a characteristic exceeded only by his self-absorption.

The play is divided into four solitary monologues by Francis, Grace, Teddy, and again by Francis. The fourth wall is gone as they each address the audience about the events of their ravaged lives and a trauma that ended their travels. Francis perceives that "the lame, the crippled, the barren, deaf, or blind" come to him not to be healed, but to confirm the absence of hope. Grace, portrayed by Keira Naughton, offers a different set of memories. Though she claims health, the audience senses her fragility. David Adkins' Teddy - whose comb-over sets a record by starting just above his ear - begins Act II. He brings some much-needed comic relief, and skillfully evolves it into the passionate disappointment of a human being whose unrewarded love persists. His intensity is the high point of the evening. As each subsequent character tells a different story about the same events, the actors' strengths are evident - the audience is both convinced and skeptical. Were ten people healed one night in Scotland? As facts are supplanted with each new version, is it memory that fails...or is it distorted by time, need, attachment, and the human frailty so well portrayed?

Directed by Eric Hill, these three fine actors - Adkins, Naughton, and Colin Lane - possess the ability to convince the audience that they live inside their characters. In this intimate theatre and with little blocking or stage business, the audience feels in close conversation with the actors. Each have complex and beautiful vocal characteristics, and the various accents were either 'spot on' or their own. The set was spare, dominated by a large aged-looking "Faith Healer" poster with graphics typical of the genre. Many audience members left without being sure they heard the final word clearly - Lane may have lost or dropped his voice inadvertently, but it was pivotal to understanding the tragedy to which all three characters referred.