Faith Healer & Waiting for the Parade

by Lynn on June 4, 2010

in Archive,Picks & Pans

Young Centre for the Performing Arts until June 4 and May 29, 2010, respectively.

Two plays opened back to back this week: FAITH HEALER, about an Irish healer of the sick who might be a con man; and WAITING FOR THE PARADE, about five Canadian women coping with the Second World War as they wait for their men to come home. Initially they don’t look like they have anything in common, but if anyone can find a similarity, it’s our theatre critic Lynn Slotkin who’s here to tell us about both.

Hello Lynn. Let’s be specific, what are these plays about? First FAITH HEALER.

Written in 1979, by Brian Friel, a wonderful Irish writer. It’s a play of four monologues given by three people. Frank is the Faith Healer, who travels from town to town in Wales, Scotland etc. to demonstrate his healing talents. He’s a smooth talker, charming, sometimes he can heal the people and sometimes not. But he can always tell when nothing will happen. He is also spotty about the truth.

Grace is his wife or mistress depending on whose monologue you are listening to. She’s devoted to Frank even though he treats her badly. She is haunted by incidents in their past and seeks solace in whiskey and prescribed pills.

Teddy is Frank’s manager who organizes the tours and pays the bills. He’s devoted to both Frank and Grace, but more so to Frank. Teddy is funny, overly theatrical and also burdened by troubling memories.

The same horrifying memory haunts all of them.


Written in 1977 by John Murrell, wonderful Canadian writer. Set in Calgary during WWII. About five women. Two have men in the war. Two have husbands who could not go for one reason or another. One is a woman who came to Canada from Germany when she was nine, is a Canadian and is ostracized because they consider her German. Her father is in a detention camp in Canada. We see how they cope, and deal with despair and worry. How they volunteer to help the war effort. And how they wait for that parade that will bring their men home.

So what binds these two plays?

They are both produced by Soulpepper, a company devoted to doing classic plays. They both deal in faith. In FAITH HEALER, it’s obvious. The people who came to this faith healer had to have faith that he would heal them of their infirmities or deformities. In WAITING FOR THE PARADE, the women who wait at home, have to have faith that their men will come home. As with any good drama there has to be some turmoil, some angst, and there is plenty of that in both plays.

What about the productions themselves? What did you think of FAITH HEALER.

Over all I found it a bit uneven. Director Gina Wilkinson has a fine eye for the atmosphere and the world of the play… Gloom pervades. Chairs are stacked precariously as if a cyclone whipped them up.

But more control of two performances are in order. As Frank, Stuart Hughes was unsteady in his first monologue, which was unsettling since he’s such a good actor. We can see the charm and confidence of Frank in the performance but missing is a sense of being haunted. As Teddy, Diego Matamoros certainly has the comedy down pat, but missing are clear clues that will lead us to the last few seconds where we see Teddy is also gripped with despair.

Finally Grace. Brenda Robins gives a towering performance of a woman, overcome with grief and desperation, and consumed with trying to cope. Whether she grips the table, or deliberately pushes her whisky bottle an arms length away, or breathes deeply to hang on, She draws you into this performance of a woman with an aching heart.

And what about Waiting for the Parade?

Terrific production. In director Joseph Ziegler’s production there are soldier’s uniforms above the stage to give us a visual reminder of who these woman are waiting for. It’s a dream cast of five superlative actresses, that bring out the humour, heart, prickly natures and regret of these five fascinating characters. It is directed with sensitivity, detail, spareness and respect for the play.

Both FAITH HEALER and WAITING FOR THE PARADE are fine plays in their own right. While I did have concerns for FAITH HEALER, I have faith that as the play is performed, they will be addressed. So I recommend you see both FAITH HEALER and WAITING FOR THE PARADE.

FAITH HEALER plays at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts until June 4; WAITING FOR THE PARADE plays at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts until May 29. The theatre is wheelchair accessible.