The Phoenix Network:
About  |  Advertise
Adult  |  Moonsigns  |  Band Guide  |  Blogs  |  In Pictures
Books  |  Dance  |  Museum And Gallery  |  Theater

Calling Kahlil

Sons of the Prophet can't live on laughs
By STEVE VINEBERG  |  April 22, 2011

Sons of the Prophet theater review
Sons of the Prophet at the Calderwood Pavilion (through May 1)

Stephen Karam's Sons of the Prophet, which the Huntington is producing at the Calderwood Pavilion (through May 1), is a prime example of the kind of contemporary playwriting that's currently popular in regional theaters. It's a glibly amusing play that pretends to address a number of subjects the audience can be counted on to care about but doesn't develop any authentic ideas and substitutes speechmaking for dramatic action. It's hip on the surface, but by the end, that surface has melted away to reveal the sentimentality of an inspirational TV movie.

The subject is how we deal with pain when it's piled on almost too deep to be plausible. The protagonist, Joseph (Kelsey Kurz), is a gay man in his late 20s from a Lebanese background whose promising career as a runner was sidelined by a leg injury that has worsened to the point where he fears he may have MS. He works as personal assistant to a drug-addled, disgraced editor named Gloria (Joanna Gleason) whose interfering personality drives him crazy, but he can't quit because she pays his health insurance. (It's not clear why a smart, articulate 29-year-old can't get another job with health benefits.) Joseph and his teenage brother, Charles (Dan McCabe), also gay, have just lost their father — their only remaining parent — to a heart attack that may or may not have been brought on when his car collided with a deer decoy placed on the highway as a prank by a high-school football player (Jonathan Louis Dent). The brothers have taken in their ailing uncle (Yusef Bulos), who isn't sympathetic when the player, a black foster kid, comes around begging them to help him defer his punishment until after the championship game.

The title alludes to the boys' family link to Kahlil Gibran; one of Charles's aids in dealing with the loss of his dad is to seek messages from beyond the grave through imagined textual links between The Prophet and The Book of Mormon. The Gibran connection sets Gloria's mind racing: she's always looking for a new project that will reinstate her career. She even manipulates Joseph into agreeing to write a book about his family tragedy. A much-covered local-news phenomenon, the story of the collision has drawn the interest of Gloria's estranged reporter son, Timothy (Charles Socarides), who becomes Joseph's lover until he turns out to be insensitive and self-interested — conveniently for Karam, whose wobbly dramatic structure requires a bad apple for Joseph to toss out of his life.

Karam could have a career writing television sit-coms; he has a skillful way with a one-liner. But the character writing is inert, and Peter DuBois's staging is so stiff and awkward that for most of the first half, the actors seem worse than they are. (Bulos, as the lecturing uncle, is truly awful — he overenunciates his lines as if he were reciting elocution lessons.) The ones who come off best are Gleason, who's a pro at playing hyperconscious neurotics with a high comedy spin, and Socarides, who manages to approach the role of the reporter with an easygoing naturalism.

1  |  2  |   next >
Related: Elevator Repair Service tackles Hemingway, ArtsEmerson celebrates a legendary director, Underground Railway Theater cracks Breaking the Code, More more >
  Topics: Theater , Theater, review, calderwood pavilion,  More more >
| More
Add Comment
HTML Prohibited

 Friends' Activity   Popular   Most Viewed 
[ 07/20 ]   Cibo Matto + Tony Castles  @ Brighton Music Hall
[ 07/20 ]   Lar Lubovitch Dance Company  @ Jacob's Pillow, Ted Shawn Theatre
[ 07/20 ]   The Magic People + Thick Shakes + Naga Gaga  @ P.A.'s Lounge
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   CALLING KAHLIL  |  April 22, 2011
    Sons of the Prophet can't live on laughs
  •   MUDDLED HISTORIES  |  October 12, 2010
    The work of Actors' Shakespeare Project is generally smart and imaginative, so the company's thoroughly misbegotten Henry IV, Part I , the first half of ASP's The Coveted Crown (at Midway Studios through November 21), comes as a surprise.
  •   REVIEW: THE HUNTINGTON'S BUS STOP  |  September 29, 2010
    Bus Stop is hardly a neglected masterpiece, or even William Inge's best play (that would be Picnic ), but when you watch Nicholas Martin's production, the Huntington's season opener (at the Boston University Theatre through October 17), you understand why it was a hit on Broadway in 1955.
  •   CURSE AND WORSE  |  June 09, 2010
    The high point of Johnny Baseball , the new musical receiving its world premiere from the American Repertory Theater (at the Loeb Drama Center through June 27), comes two-thirds of the way through the second act.
  •   THE GARDEN OF VITTORIO DE SICA  |  June 02, 2010
    Vittorio De Sica, the subject of a major retrospective at the Harvard Film Archive, "Vittorio De Sica — Neo-Realism, Melodrama, Fantasy," was a movie star in Italy before he became a filmmaker.

 See all articles by: STEVE VINEBERG

RSS Feed of for the most popular articles
 Most Viewed   Most Emailed 

  |  Sign In  |  Register
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
Copyright © 2011 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group