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28.2.11

The Faith Healer

by William Vaughn Moody

Oh, Moody, you just speak to my heart. I'm a little biased at the moment, since I have the joy of speaking his poetic text every night, but I loved this play. Granted, it's no Great Divide, but it's captivating all the same. 

Faith seems to be the theme of the month. It's an interesting topic for me to explore since I do not consider myself to be religious. Faith, however, is not strictly a religious concept. What struck me about Moody's Faith Healer (not to be confused with Brian Friel's three-hander) was the importance of faith in and between those we love.

Knowing Great Divide so intimately, it's easy to see archetypal characters that show up in both plays. The patriarch of Faith Healer, Beeler, is like an older, more-fleshed out Phil. Rhoda is a Ruth/Polly blend, and Dr. Littlefield is as if Dutch went to medical school. Seriously, Moody has something against doctors. Not only do they not get the girl (oops, *spoiler alert*) but they are either too finished and boring, or downright evil. A few of Littlefield's lines actually made me gasp.
Photo: Metropolitan Playhouse 2002

Metropolitan produced Faith Healer in 2002 to some pretty nice reviews. I think it's wonderful that they are now offering Moody's other, more famous play, The Great Divide. What a rare opportunity for audiences to step back in time to see what was hailed as, "The Great American Drama...[capturing] the indomitable spirit characteristic of the people of our great Western country." (Lafayette, LA Advertiser.) Shamless plug ;)

The Faith Healer tells the story of a faith healer, Ulrich Michaelis who has taken up board in the Beeler home. Word gets out that there is a healer in town and hundreds, if not thousands of people form lines outside the house waiting to be healed. Michaelis is anxious because he is not sure it is "his time" to perform miracles, but when the matriarch of the home, Mrs. Beeler, who has been confined to a wheelchair for five years, walks with his help, he begins to believe. His distraction comes in the form of the young and beautiful Rhoda, a "wicked woman" who doesn't believe she is worthy of love. Michaelis fears he has lost his ability to heal because all of his love and focus has been on Rhoda. He tells her:
Before creation, beyond time, God not yet risen from His sleep, you stand and call to me, and I listen in a dream that I dreamed before Eden.
A more "finished" Ghent. Le sigh, romantic.

Rhoda is scared to let him love her because when she was younger she was wooed by the evil moustache-twirling Dr. Littlefield who conveniently shows up the very day Michaelis comes to stay. Okay, he doesn't really have a moustache. At least not in the script. Rhoda believes that she must do penance for her sinful past but Michaelis believes:
What is pain but a kind of selfishness?
Rhoda finds redemption in Michaelis' love and all ends well as love saves the day. A good way to end a long day of Great Divide tech and a super awkward Oscars 2011.


Goodnight, moon. 


Tomorrow's Play: The Great Divide - Tech!

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