This weekend, the Newton Nomadic Theater’s production of “Faith Healer” packed all the supplies on the camels, pulled up stakes and moved a few miles down the Charles River to Gregorian Rugs in Lower Falls.
The two shows at Gregorians were once again full houses with wildly enthusiastic audiences on both nights. Gregorians was a wonderful new quarters for the production and had a totally different feel and vibe than last week’s Carriage House Violins.
Anybody who has seen the show will understand that this play has extremely demanding roles for all three actors, perhaps the most demanding of their acting careers. What was lost on me, until this past Friday night’s performance, was the additional demands on the actors when living the life of a nomad.
One of the most important anchors for any stage actor is the stability of the physical theater and set. Opening night’s are always grueling because so much of everything is new to the actors – where each prop is on the set, how they move around the stage during each scene (i.e. blocking), where the lights are, how they get on and off the stage. As a run continues into the 2nd, 3rd, 4th … performances all of that stays the same and the actor can focus totally on just their own performance.
This week, as “Faith Healer” moved from Carriage House Violins to Gregorian Rugs, just about every physical detail of the performance space changed – the size of the stage, the layout of the audience, the lights, the backstage, etc. Worse still, the actors had only about 15 mins on Thursday to quickly block out all the actions on what was largely an imaginary stage. Not until they arrived for Friday’s performance did they first see many details of how the theater within the beautiful rug showroom was constructed.
More than a bit overwhelming, a bit bewildering, but all three of them handled it with aplomb. Afterwards all three talked about how it was such a different and difficult way to work – both exhausting and exhilarating . The life of a nomad is a difficult one. Maybe despite of, or maybe because of, the inherently improvisational way the performances have to unfold physically at each new venue, this weekend’s performances were brilliant once again.
Now for the teaser – Johnny Depp.
Billy Meleady, plays the role of Teddy, the faith healer’s manager. Those of you who know a lot about Boston theater, know that Billy Meleady is a standout actor in any cast of any play. Billy stepped in at the last minute to rescue the “Faith Healer” production after Stephen Cooper, the original Teddy suffered a horrible on-stage accident at a different production in August. When Billy joined the cast we had heard that he had some kind of role in Black Mass, the upcoming Johnny Depp movie about Boston hoodlum Whitey Bulger.
Last night, after the show, Billy told us all the story. Billy and his longtime friend and acting colleague Ciaran Crawford were recruited for the roles. They flew out to Los Angeles to audition with the director, Scoot Cooper and were immediately given nods for the roles. Their two scenes were shot on the second day of the film’s shooting. Billy and Ciaran are in roles of IRA men from Belfast who come to Boston to meet with Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp). The scenes were shot here in Boston with Johnny Depp. Billy said the whole experience was great and that Johnny Depp was just a treat to work with.
Two more performances remain for “Faith Healer”. Next week the troupe will pull up stakes and load up those camels once again and move to Newton Center for the final two performances at the chapel of the First Baptist Church at the corner of Beacon and Centre Streets. Tickets are still available for both Friday and Saturday night’s show but they’re filling up fast, so order them today at http://NewtonNomadicTheater.org