The Publick chose the work for several reasons; one is its shoehorned fit into a season dedicated to “the role of the artist in society.” But another might be its shoehorned fit to the talents of artistic director Diego Arciniegas, who surrenders the helm of the simple, but hardly static, staging to Wellesley College’s Nora Hussey to take on the role of artist manqué Frank Hardy, whose monologues bookend the play. Squatting on his haunches, his face a sorrowful terrain of bone and shadow, incanting a glottally poetic string of the names of Welsh towns he, Grace, and Teddy have hauled their broken van through to hawk his unreliable gifts, Arciniegas embodies the charismatic character’s tortured, cynical self-awareness. And quietly commanding center stage, he tells a riveting if inner-directed story that seems completely true until you learn that some of it’s not.
Frank’s acolytes, satellites, and fellow travelers, the co-dependent Grace and irrepressible Teddy, have their own tales to tell, both saturated with telling detail and hints of what’s to come at the lyrically rendered if horrifying near-Biblical climax. Susanne Nitter, slumped in a worn easy chair stage left, nursing a whiskey in an outfit comprising slip, sweater, and socks, suggests both the denied wife’s patrician roots and her despair. Nitter sometimes seems too studied an actress, but the reserve, pulled over desperation, works for Grace. Gabriel Kuttner is too young for the old-fashioned, huckstering Teddy, whose previous clients included Miss Mulatto and Her Three Pigeons and Rob Roy the Piping Dog. But wandering the floor in bow tie and rumpled plaid jacket robe, swathing his show-business dogma and painful memories in a cockney lilt, he captures the dogged lackey’s unrequited yearnings.
Faith Healer was last seen in these parts in a fine Gloucester Stage outing in 1997. It was, however, revived on Broadway two years ago with a cast led by Ralph Fiennes and Cherry Jones. It says a lot for the Publick rendition that it did not leave me wishing I’d been there.
, Publick Theatre, Dracula Pageant, Anne Kauffman, More