Prior to the opening of Quotidian Theatre Company’s next production, Brian Friel’s storytelling drama Faith Healer, actor Laura Russell discusses the lies and truths told in the play’s conflicting narratives.
Many years ago, I read Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. The book recounts several tales more than once, each with a different emphasis and outcome: the reality of combat in Vietnam was so horrific, it became a necessary survival skill to tell lies in place of truth. Those stories have haunted me ever since, and I wonder which, if any, were the true ones. Like O’Brien’s book, Quotidian’s upcoming production Faith Healer will leave you wondering about the nature of truth.
In Faith Healer, you will meet three people giving accounts of their long and close association with one another. Each character describes significant events in their lives together, colored by their own feelings, recollections, and desire to influence you, the listener. The narratives will agree on some points, and will directly contradict in regard to others. And in each character’s tale, you will learn things that are entirely new, which the other characters do not relate.
During the rehearsal process, it has been particularly fascinating to try to determine when my character is telling the truth, and when she is lying. Why does she lie? And when does she lie without realizing that she has altered an event in her memory to make it more bearable? I love the “aha” moments when these things become clear to me. I love figuring out for myself, in my own mind, when the other characters are prevaricating and when they are not. And I love that it does not matter whether my fellow actors believe about their characters the same things that I believe. Director Laura Giannarelli has been splendid about NOT giving us a standard “true account” to play with and against. As actors, we each get to decide on our own truths, which is a great gift.
But I think the thing I love most about Faith Healer is that it brings you, the audience, into the creative process. As you watch and listen, you decide whom to believe when, and why. Which means every one of you will leave the theatre with a different story in your head. You may even have to discuss, debate, and retell it again on the way home. From the snippets of the tales we relate, you will compose your own chronicle.
All performances are held at The Writer’s Center: 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD.
The venue is a short walk from the Bethesda Metro Station. There is free parking on Saturdays and Sundays.
Tickets are $30, or $25 for seniors and students, and can be purchased online at Brown Paper Tickets.
Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm, with one additional 2pm performance on Saturday, May 24.