8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2000
If, like me, you had Brian Friel down as some sort of bog-trotting hickster, an intellectually acceptable John B. Keane if you like, prepare to be astonished. 4 monologues, 3 characters, 2 ghosts, 2 crucial incidents. Faith healer, wife/mistress, Cockney manager. Visit minor villages of Celtic Britain doing their act - miscarriage; fatal confrontation with Donegal yokels. Crosscurrents of memory, self-interest, self-mythologising, and evasion litter witness-accounts, contradicting, negating, enriching.
You can read this remarkable text in a number of ways (it helps to remember the lovely James Mason played Frank in the first performance): as a Nabokov/Banville-like narrative of an amoral, charismatic monster with a beguiling way with words, whose very artistry facilitates some kind of transcendence; as an analysis of the artist, the necessary mixture of fraudulence and healing power; as a story of brutal men and the pain they wreak on their women. So much more. The play is full of words, rich, incantatory words that seem to spin a fragrant web of matchless b.s., and yet, at the end, dissolve phantasmogorically, transforming provincial crime into an enchanted, disembodied, visionary realm.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Brian Friel, one of Ireland's leading contemporary dramatists, creates an unusual and absorbing drama about "The Fantastic Francis Hardy," a faith healer originally from Ireland, who has been traveling the small towns of England, Wales, and Scotland with his wife Grace and his manager Teddy. On some nights several people in a small audience may be healed, but, nine times out of ten, no one is. "Am I endowed with a unique and awesome gift?" Frank wonders. "Am I a conman?" He believes he falls somewhere "between those absurd exaggerations."
The play has no interactive scenes. In separate monologues each character stands alone on an almost-bare stage, and all attention is riveted on him/her. In glorious language, each person reveals the problems which torment him/her. Talking about his days on the road with Grace and Teddy, Frank discusses his recent return to Ireland, where, in a local pub, he made two attempts at healing, but he refuses to say much more.
The suspense builds in the next act, as the distraught speaker is Grace, a former lawyer who gave up everything to follow the charismatic Frank. As she tells of her love for Frank, his treatment of her, and the terrible conditions of life on the road, the audience is unsure why they have been living apart. The third speaker, the devoted Teddy, fills in some gaps between the monologues of Frank and of Grace, though we still do not know what has happened--until Frank's final monologue.
In the hands of outstanding actors, these monologues are powerful theater. (James Mason was Frank in the 1979 New York run of the play.) In a repeating incantation, Frank and Grace "sing" the names of the small towns in Scotland and Wales to which they have journeyed, connecting their monologues through this repetition and different memories of the same events. Surprisingly, the lyrics of Jerome Kern's "The Way You Look Tonight," which Teddy uses as background music during Frank's healings, echo through Teddy's monologue, which achieves great irony when he sings, "I will feel a glow just thinking of you..."
As the audience develops interest in and empathy for the speakers, the tension rises. Gradually one becomes aware that time has passed between these monologues, and Frank's concluding monologue is stunning. Friel manages, somehow, to create an involving and powerful drama, despite the fact there is no on-stage interaction and the characters flout the "rules" of theater by "telling about" events instead of reenacting them. Memorable and haunting, both as an overall play and as close-ups of three individual characters, this is Friel in one of his most compelling and unusual plays. Mary Whipple
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This play by the brilliant master, Brian Friel, is a set of ffour monologues that are meant to give us the story of a relationship- sort of a love triangel, despite the manager who insists that there be a seperation between business and friendship, yet there he is, wrapped up in the relationship. He supplies most of the brilliance: "Any artists ends up a philosopher one day."
But we see a story that develops backwards in many ways; promises kept, concepts that surprise us. Typical of Friel Balleybeg- a fictitious town- is of importance and we learn of a story bit by bit, as though it were a Sondheim musical. This is very moving and I imagine it with it's original cast and think that it must have been pure magic.