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Faith Healer at the Den Theatre | Theater review

Three actors and their director revisit Brian Friel’s work after 17 years, delivering sharp performances despite a limiting format.

Photograph: Joe Mazza
Si Osborne in Faith Healer at the Den Theatre

Francis Hardy has limited success as a faith healer for others, and even worse luck curing his own ailments. The titular character of Brian Friel’s 1979 drama is an anxious alcoholic who puts his work before his wife, desperate to prove he’s naturally gifted rather than a slave to chance.

Frank’s (Si Osborne) tragic story is told through connected monologues delivered by himself, his wife (Lia D. Mortensen) and his agent (Brad Armacost), detailing key events from different, often contradictory perspectives. The Den remounts the defunct TurnAround Theatre’s 1995 production of Faith Healer with its original cast and director, yet the sharp performances are somewhat limited by the oratorical, inactive script. At nearly three hours and four speeches, the production suffers from a few too many dips in momentum.

Both Armacost and Mortensen received Jeff Award nominations for their original performances (Armacost won), and once again they’re the highlights. Mortensen’s Grace hides her fragility behind a cloud of cigarette smoke and a bottle of Scotch, trying to forget a past that creeps up on her when she least expects it. Armacost does remarkable work mapping Teddy’s transition from lovably smarmy agent to heartbreakingly loyal confidante. He captivates the audience for the entirety of his lengthy speech, and drinks an impressive amount of Guinness along the way.

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