Sons of the Prophet, a new play by Stephen Karam, has recently opened at the Roundabout at Laura Pels. The play is a beautifully rendered portrait of broken people. The (euphemistic) curtain rises with the frightening realistic sounds (M.L. Dogg) of a car crash. The remaining two hour narrative then centers around the accident, which eventually claims the life of the Douaihy patriarch. It is a relatively simple story which is told with and honesty and artistry rarely seen. Directed by Peter DuBois, and with a cast of eight ranging from award winning Joanna Gleason to those making their New York premiere, the production achieves musicality. When David Mamet plays are done well, they can sound like a well seasoned jazz band. Sons of the Prophet is jazz as well, but gentler, softer, more whole notes than black keys. There is a realism, as in when people talk over one another, partnered with perfectly modulated (non-amplified) tones that intensifies the drama.
The Douaiy family is distantly related to Khalil Gibran (hence the title of the play) and projected references to his tome are used to wonderful effect. The sets (Anna Louizos) are very clever and are incredibly helpful in a play with more than a dozen scenes. This play is crafted so well, and is so very honest in its depiction of human beings. But it is the performances that really make it soar. Ms. Gleason (looking ravishing) plays her character, Gloria, as if she is made of glass. It is a gorgeous performance of a not entirely sympathetic character. The other standouts (for me) were Yusef Bulos (Uncle Bill) and Chris Perfetti (Charles.) I felt as if I was voyeur, peeking into the window of an interesting family.
It is also worth mentioning that this very moving drama is hysterically funny. Knee slapping, choking on candy, funny. I know it’s a good time when I get dirty looks from those around me. I think it safe to say that this play will appeal to almost everyone. If laughing, or crying is not your thing, perhaps the scathing commentary on the state of our nation’s healthcare system might appeal to you. This production will stay with me for some time. There were so many moments, silent and otherwise, that spoke to the complexities of life. At its core, it is a meditation on life. A messy meditation, created not for pages with pithy chapter titles, but for very talented artists and a grateful audience.