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Sons of the Prophet at Roundabout

October 18, 2011

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of seeing Stephen Karam’s new play Sons of the Prophet at the Roundabout Theatre Company’s Off-Broadway space. After the successful run of Speech and Debate at the Roundabout Underground, RTC commissioned Karam for a new play. Sons of the Prophet had a successful trial run at the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston before making it’s way to the Laura Pels. It doesn’t officially open until October 20th, but I’d like to comment a bit on it.

Right before entering the theater I ask my friend if she knew what the play was about; I had heard nothing at that point. When she told me that all she knew was that it was about “chronic pain” I dryly replied, “Aren’t they all?” (Oh the reputation of depressing Off-Broadway theater.) I was pleasantly surprised however that this comedy was actually funny, not to mention really well done. It tells the story of Joseph Douaihy, whose inner turmoil is transformed psychosomatically into mysterious, physical pain. While dealing with his unstable boss,  abrasive uncle,  and a family tragedy, Joseph’s stress level manifests itself into bodily symptoms actually requiring serious medical attention. Santino Fontana as Joseph provided just the right about of comedic self pity and Chris Perfetti as younger brother Charles provided a nice reality check counter to Joseph’s Debbie Downer personality. Joanna Gleason, ever fabulous, played boss Gloria with an almost “so-annoying-she’s-amazing” quality as she poked her way into Joseph’s life with a grating nails on a chalkboard skill. The rest of the ensemble was likable and funny, though I have to mention that my least favorite was the old Uncle Bill. The actor, Yusef Bulos, was perfectly capable, I just felt the crotchety, old, racist relative character is a bit played out.

 

 Sons of the Prophet is definitely a little play worth seeing. As a native Philadelphian, I also thoroughly enjoyed the numerous Pocono mountain references and the characters singing the jingle to The Mount Airy Lodge (my parents honeymooned there!) My only other criticism would be that as a relatively strong play, it ended on kind of a week note: suddenly introducing a sort of  wizened prophet of a character we had never met before and are supposed to listen to very carefully. I kind of zoned out during the last scene, assuming it was filler, only to be jarred when the play was abruptly over. Aside from that, I have never enjoyed a play about “chronic pain” so very much.

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