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Discovery Bay's leap of faith 'mesmerizing'

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Acting is an act of faith. Starting a new theater company in the midst of an already thriving theatrical community is even more so. Yet that’s exactly what three local actors did last weekend as they opened “Faith Healer,” written by Irish playwright Brian Friel, at the Chameleon Theater.

Directed by David Hillman, this story is told in four monologues beginning with Frank Hardy (Steve Treacy), the faith healer himself, who calls what he does a “craft without an apprenticeship.” Those who come to him, he claims, are there not to be healed, but for “the removal of hope.” Hardy tells us that he really isn’t in control of his gift – sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t.

Next, we meet Grace (Michelle Hensel), clearly self-medicating some kind of post-traumatic stress disorder by crawling into a bottle, whose own version differs significantly from Hardy’s. We begin to learn that life on the road with the itinerant faith healer isn’t all that spiritual.

“Spend your life in show business, and you become a philosopher,” Hardy’s road manager Teddy (Doug Taylor) tells us in the third monologue, which again reveals the unreliability of the previous narrators. And what “began as such a happy night” in a pub – a homecoming to Ireland after touring Wales and England for so many years – starts to get darker and darker, like the dimly lit theater we find ourselves in, until Hardy again takes the stage and finishes off the story.

Between the talent of these three local actors, who are by no means neophytes to the stage, and Friel’s brilliant script, this show is, simply put, mesmerizing. This new company – Discovery Bay Players – chose the perfect intimate venue to stage this show, which breaks down the fourth wall, giving us the freedom to imagine ourselves as one of the pub patrons stuck in a corner giving witness to Hardy’s work.

Technically, the lighting changes seemed a bit choppy; however, the costumes and props set the proper tone. The story takes a while to tell (about two and a half hours), but it’s worth it, and I’m already looking forward to the next production by this new group.

Tickets, $18, are available at brownpapertickets.com; by calling 800-838-3006; at the Food Co-op, 414 Kearney St.; or at the door.

The actors will be available for post-show discussion in the lobby.

Discovery Bay Players (discoverybayplayers.com) is a new theatrical group producing literate, transformative plays, particularly those by American and Irish playwrights. The group uses professional-level talent, rehearses shows in Port Townsend, and then stages full-play productions in Puget Sound-area theaters.

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