Faith Healer

Closed August 13 after a limited run at the Booth Theater on Broadway.

The image of a barren landscape marked by a single blasted tree — the first thing we see in this production of Brian Friel’s play Faith Healer — lets us know immediately that whatever the play is about, it’s not faith, at least not a living faith. I confess I’m not entirely sure what it is about, though. Friel’s writing touches on the contradictions of hope, how its presence can sometimes be more painful than its absence, and the indignities of chance, the sense that we have little control over the courses of our lives. But I had some difficulty knitting it all together in my mind.

Faith Healer is riveting, certainly, and thoughtful and lyrical, but I wondered what to make of it in the end. As an acting showcase, it’s mesmerizing. Friel’s conversational yet writerly monologues gave Ralph Fiennes, Cherry Jones and Ian McDiarmid bountiful material to create rich, memorable characters, and the play surely would lend itself to repeat viewings or, even better, careful reading. Yet I suspect that even after all of that, it would reveal itself to be a brilliant quartet of monologues, nothing less but little more.