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Paulanne Simmons

"Sons of the Prophet" Is a Mixed Blessing

"Sons of the Prophet"
Directed by Peter DuBois
Roundabout Theatre Company
Laura Pels Theatre
111 West 46th Street
Opened Oct. 20, 2011
Tues. thru Sat. at 7:30pm, matinees Wed., Sat. & Sun. at 2pm
Tickets: $71-$81
Closes Dec. 23, 2011
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Oct. 27, 20112011


Life is filled with pain and suffering Stephen Karam tells us in his new play, "Sons of the Prophet." This is something most of us learn by the time we are twenty. But Karam makes it seem like a revelation, thanks to all the great comedy he infuses into the play, the excellent direction of Peter DuBois and a terrific cast headed by Santino Fantana as Joseph Douaihy.

Joseph is a not completely out young gay man who works as as assistant to a widow named Gloria (Joanna Gleason), a former publisher who has fallen into disgrace because of a memoir which proved faulty. An erstwhile champion runner, Joseph has unaccountable pains in his legs and wears knee braces. His attempts to deal with the bureaucracy of American healthcare should arouse sympathy in even the most dedicated conservative.

Joseph’s brother, Charles (Chris Perfetti) is also gay (although much more obviously so) and also has a disability: he was born with only one ear, and cannot hear with the cosmetic one fashioned out of his own cartilage.

When the brothers’ father dies as the result of a car accident precipitated by a youthful prank (he suffered a heart attack after hitting a deer decoy), their crotchety and cranky Uncle Bill (Yusef Bulos) moves in. Uncle Bill claims the boys need him to take care of them. But he proves to be more a hindrance than a help.

The story gets complicated when Charles insists on making contact with Vin (Jonathan Louis Dent), the football player who put the decoy on the road, and Joseph falls for Timothy (Charles Socarides) an ambitious young reporter who just happens to be gay too.

For those who don’t get the point or need extra reassurance that beneath the comedy there is real depth, it turns out the Douaihys are distantly related to Khalil Gibran (take a second look at the title) and are forever ironically spouting quotes from the popular but simplistic poet. There are also references to the seemingly unsolvable problems in the Middle East (the play takes place in Nazareth, Pa.).

"Sons of Prophet" is certainly entertaining. Karam’s dialogue is quick and wry. And, of course, his situations have a touch of the ridiculous. In fact, the play is so entertaining, it takes a while to realize that most of the characters are paper thin and some of them (most specifically Gloria and Uncle Bill) are not much more than caricatures.

One might also overlook the fact that although Karam provides us with a situation, he does not supply a plot. From the first moments of the play, when we hear the sound of the car crash, to the last scene, when Joseph is being taught how to exercise peacefully, nothing really changes.

"Sons of the Prophet" is a reassuring play on many levels. It makes grief bearable. It presents a subject that makes us uncomfortable in a comforting way. And it allows us to feel like adults because we are willing to approach this subject matter.

It’s worth going to see this play just to witness the skillful way DuBois handles the material and to appreciate Fontana’s performance, which wrings every bit of nuance out of an obvious theme. If "Sons of the Prophet" hadn’t gone on just a tad too long, even this reviewer might not have noticed that Karam keeps pounding on the same nail.

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