Saturday, December 24, 2011

theatre review SONS OF THE PROPHET, Off Broadway December 17th

The new play Sons of the Prophet is coming to the end of it's three month Off Broadway run on January 1st.  Telling the story of two brothers, their uncle and a few other people in their lives, it is an interesting slice of life set in the small town of Nazareth, Pennsylvania.   It is a well written play that also features a tight ensemble cast with great acting and direction from Peter DuBois.

Written by Stephen Karam, Sons of the Prophet focuses on the pain and comical moments that are the result of suffering.  Joseph Douaihy and his 18 year old brother Charles are members of a Lebanese family who live in rural Pennsylvania.   Joseph is suffering from some unexplained health issues when his father is involved in a car accident that he later dies from.  That accident, caused by a prank a high school student pulled, is the latest tragedy to come to the Douaihy family, as their mother has also passed away and their uncle Bill isn't doing so good either. 

Santino Fontana and Joanna Gleason

Joseph works for Gloria, a book editor who also has tragic issues of her own to deal with.  He works for her mainly for the insurance that comes with the job, even though the coverage doesn't seem to help in providing any answers to his medical questions.  Added to the mix is the high school student who caused the accident, who has been moved from one foster home to another but since he is a star football player the school board has postponed his punishment for the prank until after football season.  There is also the young reporter who was a former rival of Joseph's cross country team from another high school who is trying to get close to the family to get their reaction to the events of the tragedy in order to prove himself as a journalist.  And then there is the fact that the Douaihy family are distant relatives to Kahlil Gibran, the best selling author of The Prophet which Gloria thinks that connection will make a best selling book.

This is a play about coping when answers are hard to come by and accurately shows the humor and comic moments that are prevalent even in tragic times.  Sons of the Prophet also features some of the most realistic dialogue and moments of any contemporary play I can remember.

Jonathan Louis Dent, Chris Perfetti,
Santino Fontana and Yusef Bulos
The first rate cast is led by Santino Fontana as Joseph, and he couldn't be any better in the part.  He perfectly plays the older brother and caretaker to his Uncle with the requisite strength required, but he is also completely at sea, confused and concerned when it comes to his unknown medical issues.   His Uncle Bill is played by Yusef Bulos who expertly captures the older member of the family who believes he now must be the caretaker of the family since that his brother has died, but realizes too soon that he is actually the one who needs taking care of.  Chris Perfetti is Charles, the younger brother and Perfetti is making an auspicious New York theatre debut with the play, as he elegantly captures the yearnings of a young adult who has seen a lot of tragedy in his young life but also realizes that living your life is the most important part of dealing with tragedy.

Santino Fontana and Charles Socarides
Joanna Gleason is Gloria and she is as perfect as always in the role, adding the requisite amount of upper middle class New York City angst to the small town Pennsylvania blue collar atmosphere.  I absolutely loved the moments when she would pick up her blackberry to take an imaginary call as a way to get herself out of a difficult situation.  I also loved how her character was written in that since she is a loner suffering from depression she tries to latch on to Joseph and his family almost to fill the gap and as a replacement for her estranged family.  Gleason had no problems portraying the hard as nails book editor who underneath is suffering from the pain of these past experiences.

Jonathan Louis Dent is the football player who pulled the prank and he nicely plays the part of the outsider who knows he did something wrong but learns from his mistake.  Charles Socarides is the reporter who has issues of his own and Socarides has the appropriate mix of pushiness and empathy to make the character more than just a caricature.  Lizbeth Mackay and Dee Nelson play several supporting characters with several moments of humor.

The set design by Anna Louizos captures various settings including a perfectly represented living room and bedroom for Joseph and Charles' house.  DuBois makes effective use of the small stage in his direction, which swiftly moves from one locale to the next.  But he also doesn't let the heavy moments of the show weigh it down too much, which is as much a result of the direction as well as the writing by Karam.
Sons of the Prophet is a play that doesn't answer all of the questions that it poses, but that is just like life so I appreciated that it didn't attempt to tie everything up at the end.  Karam is a young playwright who also wrote the well received play Speech & Debate that played New York a few years back.  So he has many years and plays ahead of him, but he is off to an extremely impressive start.

Official Show Site

No comments:

Post a Comment