Wednesday, April 20, 2011

THEATER: SONS OF THE PROPHET

SONS OF THE PROPHET is set in Lebanon, Egypt, Nazareth, Bethlehem, and Jordan--not too far from the Poconos. That's right--it's Pennsylvania!-- where the playwright grew up, and the mess of characters and circumstances here seem no less tangled and painful than the conundrum in the middle east. Oh, and it's a comedy. Sort of.

This world premiere right in our own backyard is written by the witty Stephen Karam who gave us the hilarious and frenetic SPEECH AND DEBATE which circumscribed some of the vicissitudes of teen life. Here he serves up a roiling cauldron of wounded souls: the action begins with an accident, and keeps on careening. The injured man's two gay sons- one suffering from a mysterious illness, the other congenitally missing an ear, are taking care of their elderly ailing uncle and they're all related to Kahlil Gibran, author of THE PROPHET. There's a pushy depressive book publisher, a callow but sexy TV reporter, and a football player from a foster home. They're all seeking stability in a turbulent world, searching for meaning and connection to soothe the sting of the random cruelties this flesh is heir to.

The play tackles identity, mortality, prejudice, history, and death, not to mention the way the human drama is currently being packaged and commodified in a culture whose links to the past seem ever more vestigial. I worked hard to connect the dots. All the characters were annoying, and none of their issues seemed weighty enough to support the gravitas Karam was going for. A stronger cast might have helped. Joanna Gleason stands out for an unusually kooky performance as her character becomes increasingly unhinged. The rest of the cast seemed a bit stiff--many of the jokes didn't land. Nor was I really moved. But I recommend you see it; Karam is onto plenty-- he just hasn't wrestled it all to the ground yet.
SONS OF THE PROPHET presented by the Huntington Theatre Company through May 1.

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