Faith Healer

July 2, 2013

So much to think about in Faith Healer, I’m not entirely sure what all to write.

When I read a very short description of the play (the work of a faith healer is described in monologues by him, his wife/mistress, and his manager, somehow trying to get through memory and confusion to something like truth), I was fascinated. And then I saw the cast: two Shaw favourites, Jim Mezon and Peter Krantz, plus (for us) a relative newcomer in Corrine Koslo, who was more than able to hold her own, offering a tour de force…but I can’t say that, because all three of them were so perfectly balanced.

And balance is such a strange thing to say about the acting, because the whole play is about being off-balance and searching for it. We can never be sure, until the end, what “happened”. All these filters of performance and story and history and memory. We only come to some conclusion in the last line: “At long last I was renouncing chance.” Claiming certainty from a trio of lives that have been characterized by miracle and sorrow but most of all by uncertainty.

Mom caught the thread by intermission, and it held true. Frank, the faith healer, as the ‘expression’, language, show. Grace (what a name!) as ’emotion’. We wondered if Teddy would play the role of ‘truth’. The trickster, huckster, fool — but TRUE.

And all three of these pieces are the keys to narration, story, memory. How we make sense of our lives. Poetic expression, strong emotion, coming to truth. At the end, what survives is what’s true.


May 22, 2010

“our belief in his existence is something that must be learned and not taken on faith” – from the playbill.

We weren’t sure, going to Harvey at the Shaw Festival this year, how we’d feel about it, as big fans of the movie. In a lot of ways, though, I found it more effective.

First, as we left the theatre, my mother commented that one “really starts to feel like Shaw’s a community theatre”, considering that some of these actors have been our favourites since we started going, and have been with the company for 25 years. It was nice to see some of my favourite dramatic actors (Peter Krantz, Norman Browning, and others) stretch their comedic muscles, especially since repertoire at Shaw has veered away from dramas in recent years. (This is one of my issues with the theatre; and don’t get me started on giving equal emphasis to “plays representing Shaw’s time” – the dude lived for a century, that doesn’t give you enough material?!).

Sets, etc., were marvelous, as always. But the real gem, of course, was Peter Krantz. There was a bittersweetness to his performance that I don’t know if Jimmy Stewart missed, or if I missed it because I’m more attuned that way now than as a child. Yes, Elwood’s rabbit maintains his joy in life and emphasizes magic and chivalry. But Elwood’s also an alcoholic, and that and Harvey really isolate him, even from his family. The pain of Veta (Mary Haney, another Shaw veteran) and the sadness in Krantz’ voice when Elwood discusses how everyone’s his friend, when they’re drinking, was really moving. We can be sad that society has changed, but that doesn’t mean we can cling to how things were.

The Shaw Festival hasn’t held my interest for these last couple seasons, but I got an offer for Niagara residents, and knowing I enjoy Sondheim, I thought we should make our return (one season, K and I went to about 5 shows).

There were really excellent elements – the female lead was charming, although neither of the leads were really singers. And the design of the shows is always visually and intellectually exciting.

Which was especially important in this case – a musical based on George Seurat’s painting of A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (best known as the painting from Ferris Bueller).

And the first act, focused on Seurat and his art and relationships, was quite strong. There was a scene where K and I kept nudging each other, it rang so true to how men and women communicate (or don’t). It was lovely to see all the characters gradually form themselves into the famous painting.

We both thought, and I’ve read similar opinions, that the 2nd act was a bit weaker. Less original, it seemed to me, even if the 2nd act has the most famous song from the show, “Putting it Together”.

I like theatre to move me, and this didn’t, but if you’re looking for a pleasant Sunday afternoon, it would do.