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A layered story

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

Three characters, all with very different stories of the same time in their lives, leave an audience wondering whose account is true – or at least has the most truth.

Brian Friel’s “Faith Healer,” an Irish drama coming to Santa Fe this weekend via Taos’ Odenbear Theatre company, is arranged as four lengthy monologues from three characters set in the 1950s.

Frances Hardy is a traveling healer with inconsistent abilities, with his unhappy but devoted wife Grace and stage manager Teddy, both of whom have put Frances and his career ahead of themselves and must deal with that in different ways.

All three are reflecting on their internal struggles throughout their 20 years traveling together to crowds of people hoping to be cured. One event changes the course of their lives.

Jim Hatch

“(Friel) layers it so all of them intermingle to become one big picture,” Jim Hatch, Odenbear’s artistic director, who plays Teddy in the show, said about the varying accounts that viewers must maneuver to find the truth.

Irene Loy

Hatch, who said the show often “stuns” audiences with its twists and turns, shares the stage with Jeff Spicer as Frances and Irene Loy as Grace.

Frances spends his time in the story talking about his work healing the ill, as well as his complicated relationships with Grace and Teddy. Spicer says his character depends on his wife, but is cruel to her, and he cares for Teddy, despite speaking badly about him behind his back.

In the end, it’s unclear if Frances’ healing powers are real or if his confidence has all been a front.

Jeff Spicer

“He’s definitely a flawed guy,” said Spicer. But he adds that the flaws make the character more relatable, as a man who struggles with knowing where his “strengths and talents” lie and who doesn’t fully understand his feelings for his wife of many years.

Loy said her character, Grace, will be recognizable to women who either have, or known others who have, felt underappreciated by their partners, but still never leave.

The characters each have vastly different recollections of what happened over the years, from small details like who picked the music that played during Frances’ “performances” to more important pieces of history. One example is that Frances never refers to Grace as his wife. He instead calls her “mistress,” which differs from Grace and Teddy’s accounts.

Hatch said he and director Bruce Katlin decided the three actors would not rehearse together throughout the months of preparation, to maintain the different storylines as “pure” and unaffected by the other characters’ points of view.

“It keeps everything very authentic,” said Hatch.

Spicer described the collective story as an intense one that the audience can understand only by piecing the different accounts together carefully.

“All the characters leave gaps in their monologues that the other characters might fill in,” said Spicer. “It’s essential that they can’t be passive listeners.”

“Faith Healer” will be presented at Teatro Paraguas tonight and Saturday only.