Tuesday October 17th 2017

“Faith Healer”

Many years ago, Chicago theater audiences were lucky to see a fantastic production of Brian Friel’s “Faith Healer” produced by TurnAround Theatre at Steppenwolf. This production was extended beyond what they had anticipated and claimed notoriety at The Jeff Awards. This took place 17 years ago, and now, The Den Theatre, that feisty new venue on Milwaukee Avenue is presenting a remount of this fantastic production, through January 20th,2013 ( or so they say) featuring the original cast. This is indeed a fantastic theatrical experience for young audiences of Chicago. It is a story about a “fantastic” healer ( please note that this word is used a lot in the show, which caused me to want to use it in this review as well) Frank Hardy ( a fantastic performance by Si Osborne), who travels the small towns of Ireland and Scotland along with his wife ( deftly handled by Lia D. Mortensen) and his manager”/promoter ( a brilliant performance by Brad Armacost) .

The story they tell, is about their lives and travels and each tells the story in their own words as we witness four monologues ( two in each act). Directed by J.R.Sullivan on a sparse set (Henry Behel), each of the stories are designed to allow you to meet each of the players and hear how they felt about the choices they made. Frank had what he calls “the magic hands” and on one particular night, he was able to have ten visitors walk out of his arena “cured”. In all likelihood, the crowning point of a not so strong career. He talks about the mystery of his “talent”. He is followed by his wife,Grace, who tells us of her turmoil with Frank’s talent and lifestyle, along with what happened between her and her family. We also learn about more deeper secrets through promoter Teddy who talks about his bouts of success with show business and is filled with comic moments ( in particular his trained dog, that plays the “pipes” and another client who talks with pigeons- a real hoot) until he begins to unravel some of the mysteries that were brought up by Grace and Frank as we find out about the lives of “artists” and their  own “faith” in themselves and each other! When Frank comes back for what I guess is in reality an epilogue, he attempts to put us at ease with the tragic moments of his life’s experience as learning points in our own lives.                                                              

While this is not a mass appeal production, it is one that I suggest for any young actors to view. Watching these three performers do monologues on an almost bare stage for over 30 minutes each is a true learning experience. To hold an audiences interest for this long, takes true talent and all three of these actors have the skills needed to make this work. The only reason I did not add the 5th star to my rating is that this is not a play for everyone. There are many who cannot handle a play with this much dialogue, although the two and a half hours rolls by quickly. Cat Wilson does some clever lighting to set the mood and Marshall Crawford’s  sound design and Rachel S. Parent’s costumes are, to use an overused word “fantastic”.

The Den Theatre is a wonderful place to see a play with their multi theaters, but the flight up is a long one , so be prepared to walk slowly. The Den is located at 1333 N. Milwaukee Avenue ( between Division and North Avenues) with lots of dining spots in the area. Parking is metered ( until 9 p.m.).

The show will continue through January 20th with performances as follows:

Thursdays,Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.

Tickets are a mere $28, just a bit more than a 3D movie for live theater of award winning quality. You can order tickets at www.brownpapertickets.com

This is an open seating venue, so come early and enjoy a cocktail or a coffee in their audience friendly lobby/lounge.

To learn more about The Den and the companies that will be performing visit www.thedentheatre.com

To see what others say about this show, visit www.theatreinchicago.com

, click on review round-up and click at “Faith Healer”

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