Review Roundup: SONS OF THE PROPHET

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The Roundabout Theatre Company's New York Premiere of Stephen Karam's new play, Sons of the Prophet, opened on October 20. Directed by Peter DuBois, the cast features Yusef Bulos (Bill), Jonathan Louis Dent (Vin), Santino Fontana (Joseph), Joanna Gleason (Gloria), Lizbeth MacKay (Mrs. McAndrew), Dee Nelson (Dr. Manor), Chris Perfetti (Charles), Charles Socarides (Timothy). 

Tickets are available by calling Roundabout Ticket Services at (212)719-1300 , online at www.roundabouttheatre.org or at the Laura Pels box office. Ticket prices range from $71.00-81.00.

Charles Isherwood, New York Times: Mr. Karam's play, which runs a little less than two hours and is performed in one seamless act , may sound top-heavy with plot and character. (Did I mention that Gloria's emotional frailty also stems from the suicide of her husband?) Some of the relationships would benefit from being fleshed out in greater detail: the integration of Gloria into the lives of Joseph and his family, for example. The play's climax shoehorns all the elements of the story into a farcical scene that seems a little forced, funny though it is.

Aubrey D'Arminio, Entertainment Weekly: Karam - who is Lebanese American, Pennsylvanian, and gay himself - explores this right of passage with good intent (and the help of Fontana, who appears to wither away emotionally and physically by the play's end). He even occasionally injects some humor into the story, mostly thanks to Perfetti's snark as Joseph's precocious teen brother. But Sons lacks the laughs of the playwright's previous work, particularly the high school-set three-hander Speech and Debate.

Joe Dziemianowicz, Daily News: Karam's skill at juggling themes and capturing real-life conversation is marvelous. The way in which comedy and tragedy cozy up together recalls Beth Henley's "Crimes of the Heart." At times, he overreaches. Plot threads snag. And now and then, lines emerge too sculpted, as when Joe laments his legacy: "The Douaihys have a habit of dying tragically," he tells Tim. "We're like the Kennedys without the sex appeal."

Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Post: The playwright's empathy for his characters is contagious. We cringe in dread as Joseph undergoes new medical tests, then has to figure out how to pay for them. We want to yell warnings before he embarks on an affair with a possibly manipulative reporter (Charles Socarides).

Scott Brown, New York Magazine:  Sons of the Prophet belongs to Fontana, but everyone here is more than pulling his or her weight. This is feel-good theater you don't have to feel bad about later, mainstream stage entertainment with no aspartame aftertaste. And it goes to show: There's no real downturn when it comes to strong new voices. They're there. Let's put them on bigger and bigger stages and see what happens. If that's a bubble, well, it's well worth inflating.

Roma Torre, NY1: Many of the threads in this play are left dangling, but no matter. Playwright Karam has a tremendous gift for listening to his characters and letting them take him and us to the most unexpectedly intriguing places.

Michael Feingold, Village Voice: Inviting us to feel an inexplicably intense sorrow, he constantly interrupts its growth by focusing on sitcom-like mix-ups or arcane familial details. Nitpicky questions constantly creep into your mind as you watch (like exactly how feisty do people get when they've just had a spinal tap?); instead of coalescing, the experience tends to crumble away. It's not the excellent cast's fault. Fontana sustains his difficult role most movingly, Bulos is acerbically crisp, and Gleason supplies a wonderful, convincingly real tossed salad of emotional impulses. But is it dramatically meaningful? We'll be right back.

Adam Feldman, Time Out New York: Stephen Karam's fresh, evocatively detailed writing sustains a resiliently comic tone that takes each misfortune in stride even as it accelerates toward a quasi-farcical climax. Affirming his place among the city's essential young actors, Santino Fontana holds center stage with charm and wary intelligence; under Peter DuBois's confident direction for the Roundabout, the secondary actors, whose characters don't get much chance to evolve, provide amusing foils for Joseph's (Mr. Fontana) progress. "Much of your pain is self-chosen," wrote Gibran. "Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding." Karam's affectionate character study prods us gently toward that end.

Robert Feldberg, Bergen Record: We can infer that Karam's message is something like this: Everyone has some sort of problem, but the thing is to keep moving forward, do good and enjoy what you can, with the support of friends and family. That advice is, unfortunately, of little help in coming to terms with the experience of seeing a very tedious play.

Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press: Effective direction by Peter DuBois keeps the multiple strands of Karam's plot moving nicely, though there are pockets where the dialogue seems to drag. Lighter touches abound, including a priceless tussle between Joseph and an automated phone answering system, and a truly loopy announcer in local bus terminal.

 

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

 

 

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