Theatre Information

Henley Street Theatre Faith Healer

By • Feb 1st, 2013 • Category: Reviews
Faith Healer
Henley Street Theatre: (Info) (Web)
SPARC Center For The Performing Arts, Richmond, VA
Through February 23rd
2:30 with one intermission
$30/$25 Seniors/$20 Students
Reviewed January 31st, 2013

The second of the entries in the Richmond “Acts of Faith Festival” that I was able to attend was the preview performance of Henley Street Theater’s Faith Healer.

Written by Brian Friel, one of Ireland’s most beloved playwrights, Faith Healer depicts three characters — an alcoholic, charismatic faith healer Frank, his love-starved companion Grace and his devoted promoter Teddy — who tell conflicting versions of the same story. This darkly lyrical tale examines how subjective truths inform the choices we make.

In a series of four monologues, the three characters tell their versions of a series of events. Each has overlapping truths yet glaringly conflicting details. Minimal sets and action leave the audience to create their own mental images as each actor tells their version of the truth. Each actor maintains both a believable accent and dialect as well as a conversational tone with the audience. At times, in breaking the fourth wall, it is almost more a lecture or discussion than a play.

Faith Healer stars Joe Pabst, as the Faith Healer, Frank. He is both charismatic and likeable, yet mysterious and sneaky. Pabst not only uses his words, but his mannerisms, facial expressions and even his eyes to tell his story. Pabst has a commanding presence both physically and vocally with his deep, booming voice. He makes great connections with individual audience members with just a glance or a gesture. As Frank says, you can “see it in your mind.”

Katie McCall, is strong and believable as Frank’s wife (or companion, depending on who you believe) Grace. She also maintains great presence and a believable connection with both the character and the audience. Her nervous energy is maintained via chain-smoking, drinking and hand gesture and body language. She had a great ability to draw the audience in and to share in her anguish.

Williamsburg award-winning actor Ron Reid makes his first Richmond appearance as Frank’s promoter, Teddy. He had the best comedic timing and energy in the show, and was the most engaging in his interactions with the audience. He brings the audience with him through a range of emotional highs and lows.

James Ricks wore multiple hats as director, as well as set and sound designer. He utilizes the small stage well, and enhances the production with simple sets such as mismatched wooden chairs a la an old-fashioned gospel show/meeting-house. Andrew Bonniwell’s lighting also enhances the mood and setting, and Margarette Joyner’s costumes are attractive and appropriate.

Parents beware, there is some strong language as well as live cigarette smoke.

In the end, the play ends suddenly, with no real insight into who was telling the truth, but yet it doesn’t really matter. The play is about language and the telling of the story. The resolution is left to the audience’s own interpretation. I have faith, that Faith Healer will leave you thinking and debating even after the final bows.

From the Director

When I irst saw this play, I was affected for days.

On the one hand, I was overwhelmed by Brian Friel’s ability to point out such vivid characters under a mosaic of language that is both layered and lyrical. On the other, I couldn’t define exactly what I had just witnessed. As a theatre practitioner, I found this reaction frustrating and tantalizing, offering yet another layer of contradictory feelings. And quite frankly , I’m pretty sure the playwright would be satisfied by this.

Interestingly, the playwright’s intent happens to match the packaging. With his piece, Friel invites us to play the role of investigator. We are presented with three disparate versions of the same story, pressing us to consider the implications of subjective truth and the choices we make as a result of that truth. What exactly is the truth about their shared experience? Does it even matter in the end? What is certain is that those who are beguiled by carefully crafted language that deals in absolutes will not be disappointed this evening.

Mr. Friel describes this piece as a ‘portrait of the artist’ both as a diviner and a charlatan. In this particular case, the artist is portrayed in the form of a healer who has varying degrees of success with his ‘gift.’ Therein lies what we believe to be the heart of this piece. What it means. To possess a gift and the way we allow that gift to define us-even when it isn’t always there for us. How do we allow something that is so variable and difficult to control to define who we are? And why do we put put faith in something that is so elusive? For me, the questions offered in this piece are both dizzying and electrifying. But ultimately, they demonstrate the kind of language-centric artistry that restores my faith in what we do.

This evening, I hope you enjoy wandering with us through those labyrinthine and contradictory considerations and savor the lyrical jungle gym that Mr. Friel has provided these actors.

-James Ricks

Photo Gallery

Artwork Photo 1
Photo 2

Photos provided by Henley Street Theatre


  • Frank: Joe Pabst
  • Grace: Katie McCall
  • Teddy: Ron Reid


  • Director:James Ricks
  • Stage Management: Nata Moriconi
  • Costume Design: Margarette Joyner
  • Light Design: Andrew Bonniwell
  • Set and Sound Design: James Ricks
  • Dialect Consultant: Amanda Durst
  • Scenic Artist: Megan Heart
  • Stage Management Intern: Amena Durant
  • Crew: Lily Hargis and A.R. Cooper

Disclaimer: Henley Street Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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