"Faith Healer" (The Den Theatre): Too Much of a Good Thing

"Faith Healer" (The Den Theatre): Too Much of a Good Thing

The Den Theatre presents a remount of Turnaround Theatre’s original production of FAITH HEALER.  The Fantastic Francis Hardy is an itinerant healer.  He goes from town to town promising to cure the afflicted.  Grace is his long suffering wife.  She is praying for her own miracle, a caring husband.  Teddy is the set-up man.  His job is to promote the show.  But is it a show or the real thing?  Teddy sees the reality and the divinity in Frank’s acts offstage and onstage.  Is Frank a healer or an inflictor?  A night of supernatural intervention will make everyone question Frank’s abilities including Frank.  FAITH HEALER goes for the long con.  But does it work?  How much faith is required?

Seventeen years ago, Turnaround Theatre premiered FAITH HEALER.  It was a bonafide hit.  FAITH HEALER had a four-month sold out run.  It remounted later that year in Steppenwolf’s first Studio Theatre Season.  The production earned Brad Armacost (Teddy) a Joseph Jefferson Award and Lia D. Mortensen (Grace) a Jeff Award nomination.  After nearly twenty years, FAITH HEALER is back with the same cast:  Armacost, Mortensen and Si Osborne (Frank).  And featuring the original direction by J.R. Sullivan.

Playwright Brian Friel penned an intriguing personal expose of a showbiz healer.  He presents the backstory in four monologues. Friel’s storytelling is alluring, unraveling revelations.  If FAITH HEALER was a book, I’d continuously thumb back to previous passages for clarity.  The monologue format engages initially for each litany. His fleshed-out characters are vividly genuine, especially Teddy and his magic dog.  A Guinness gulping Armacost is outstanding in his hilarious and heart-felt recollections.  He was mesmerizing…mostly!  But even the extraordinarily charming Armacost has trouble holding my attention for his nearly hour long remembrances.

Here’s the speed bump for a 2012 audience,  it is four monologues over nearly three hours. That’s a lot of information!  In the last seventeen years, we’ve learned to communicate in text acronyms and in under 140 characters.  FAITH HEALER is an attention span challenge.  The story is good.  The acting is good.  It’s just too much of a good thing.  The Den Theatre kept the room pretty cosy on a cold winter’s night too. Despite my best efforts, I found myself zoning out here and there.  It didn’t help that scene transitions seemed excessively long with unnecessary chair moving.  Part of the dramatic conclusion was lost on me because I missed a piece of critical information in one of my attention breaks. OMG, FAITH HEALER, I believe n u but 2MI.

Running Time:  Two hours and forty-five minutes includes an intermission

At The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee

Written by Brian Friel

Directed by J.R. Sullivan

Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30pm

Sundays at 3pm

Thru January 20th

Buy Tickets at www.brownpapertickets.com


Production photograph by Joe Mazza

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