Irish playwright Brian Friel's magnificent "Faith Healer" can be savored for its passionate and poetic writing. The revival of the 1979 Broadway première, currently running at the Booth Theater through July 30, adds to that appeal a trio of unparalleled performances.
The work takes its structure - four monologues - from the ancient art of storytelling, starting and ending with Ralph Fiennes as Frank Hardy, an itinerant faith healer. His appearances bookend ones by Cherry Jones as Grace, his bereft wife, and Ian McDiarmid in the role of Teddy, his manager. Each of them describes a version of their lives together on tour to the decaying villages of rural Wales and Scotland. Grace would sit at the door to take the collection while Teddy arranged the chairs and played mood music before Hardy's performance of laying on of hands. That Hardy sometimes changed customers' lives is the contradiction of his existence.
Fiennes turns in a performance of nuance and physical presence as he describes his radiance when the gift was first manifested and disgust at his fakery when it fled. Jones, rummaging among the memories she could bear to recall, seems steeped in remorse. McDiarmid, as the promoter, brings humor to his poignancy. The play eloquently evokes the tragedy of self-delusion. Grade: A