FAITH HEALER (Lantern): Powerful storytelling

Ian Merrill Peakes in the Lantern’s production of FAITH HEALER. Photo by Mark Garvin.

The Lantern Theater’s performance of Faith Healer, by Brian Friel is presented as four monologues that represent three points of view, those of Frank Hardy (The fantastic Faith Healer), and Grace, who may or may not be his wife, and Teddy, who is Frank’s manager.

Monologue, with no dialogue or character interaction, is not true drama. It’s story telling, a tradition that goes back to a time before Homer when entertainments were few, and people would gather to listen to inspiring, harrowing, and exciting tales of gods, goddesses, and heroes who walked the earth. In Faith Healer we get the same, but with diverging versions, the same events recounted by three different characters. While there’s general agreement about events that took place, the interpretations of those events differ widely. Frank Hardy is a man possessed of a gift, which is healing by faith. The faith is a connection between the afflicted and some faculty in Frank which sometimes enables him to remove whatever element is causing injury and restore the sufferer to health. The process is only successful  sometimes. Although the curative process operates through him, Frank doesn’t control it, and he never knows until the moment whether or not it will work. But for all the limitations of his healing by faith, and his considerable limitations as a person, occasionally he seems to have the ability to perform what must be regarded as miracles. 

The small stage, minimally set with very little furniture, allows actors just enough space for moderate movement as they address the audience. The three strong actors do the work of creating their world, recounting with passion what they’ve seen and done while traveling with the faith healing show, going here and there with the troubles and triumph they encounter. Grace has a sad, sad story. There are no minor incidents. There are only telling events that draw a sharp divide between the good that Frank is sometimes able to accomplish and his freakishly selfish nature. In response to his own nagging questions about the nature of his gift, he says, “I silenced them with whiskey.” Softening, he plays Just the Way You Look Tonight on his record player. Grace and Teddy remain loyal to a man who deserves no loyalty, and love a man who is more God-touched monster than human.

Lead actor Ian Merrill Peakes as Frank handles an incredible amount of talk. It is always admirable how actors manage to remember lengthy monologues with seeming ease. The characters’ tales are mesmerizing and ring with truth, placing us in their world with its problems, many failures, and a handful of redemptive awe-inspiring successes. All of these elements make for a powerful evening of theater.

[Lantern Theater Company at St. Stephen’s Theater, 923 Ludlow Street] February 1–March 3, 2024;

Playwright: Brian Friel

The Cast: Anthony Lawton, Ian Merrill Peakes, Genevieve Perrier, 

Director, Peter DeLaurier

Scenic Design, Nick Embree; Costume Design, Marla Jurglanis; Lighting Design, Lily Fossner; 

Sound Design & Original Music, Elizabeth Atkinson; Stage Manager, Rebecca Smith; Assistant Director, Matt Melchior; Artistic Director, Charles McMahon; Executive Director, Stacy Maria Dutton 

Two and a half hours with one fifteen minute intermission

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