Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Faith Healer (The SOB Review) – Booth Theatre, New York, NY

Faith Healer (The SOB Review) – Booth Theatre, New York, NY

***1/2 (our of ****)

Not all great theatre is necessarily easy to sit through. But it certainly helps tremendously when you have three of the most gifted actors from either side of the Atlantic to convey the story. Such is the case with the retelling – literally – of Brian Friel’s Faith Healer, which opened last week on Broadway. I took in the show on Saturday evening.

I confess that I don’t know the reasons for Faith Healer’s all-too-short life span when it first appeared at the Great White Way’s Longacre Theatre 27 years ago with the late, great James Mason in the lead role of Frank Hardy, whose initials F.H. segue nicely with the vocation of Faith Healer. But it would appear that this play was a couple decades ahead of its time, complete with its individual soliloquies that supposedly share the same story over and over, yet reveal gaping holes through each successive telling.

The superb Ralph Fiennes was fine, and Cherry Jones was electrifying, albeit with an accent that didn’t quite fit the character. Indeed, what I had originally anticipated would be the most exciting aspects of the casting -- previous Tony winners Fiennes and Jones -- were revealed to be merely precursors to an incomparable performance by Ian McDiarmid (pictured above), who single-handed breathed lasting life into the production through his very human portrayal of Frank Hardy’s “all-business” manager, Teddy. McDiarmid, who is best known to American audiences for his role in five of the six "Star Wars" movies, succeeded in stealing the show right from under the two Tony winners by adding an essential touch of humor and heart. McDiarmid is sure to be nominated for a Tony Award in his own right for inhabiting this role so effectively.

As I noted earlier, this is not an easy production to sit through, but it is one that you’ll later revel in having seen true acting genii perform on the same stage, even if not at the same moment in time.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:

Vanessa Redgrave to Make Broadway Return as Joan Didion (May 26, 2006)
Critics Believe in Faith Healer (May 5, 2006)
Faith Healer Seeks Believers on Broadway Tonight (May 4, 2006)
Broadway Season Nears Finale (April 30, 2006)

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