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Sons of the Prophet – Review

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.

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Man and Boy – Review

The Rondabout Theatre Company has mounted a revival of Terence Rattigan’s Man and Boy.  For those with a pressing engagement or abbreviated attention span, I will cut to the chase: it is phenomenal.

Frank Langella (‘nough said?) stars in this drama set in Greenwich Village in 1934.  Directed by Maria Aiken, the fluid and balanced action unfolds in real time one October evening.  Man and Boy, written in 1961, feels terribly modern both in its storyline and style.  Langella’s character, Gregor Antonescu is an international financier, credited with resuscitating the European markets after World War I.  He is debonair, larger than life, steely, and by his own admission, without conscious.  Things have come to a bit of a nasty head for G.A., as he is known to his trusty assistant Sven Johnson (Michael Siberry) who bears a second cousin resemblance to Max in Sunset Boulevard.  Sven seeks out the Greenwich Village apartment of G.A.’s estranged son Basil (Adam Driver) for a clandestine business meeting.  Basil has denounced his lineage and lives as a piano playing socialist in a dreary basement apartment (designed by Derek McLane.)  Underneath the thin layer of his disguise is Basil’s adulation of dear old dad.

Not surprisingly G.A.’s impulse upon seeing his son for the first time in five years, is to offer the young man to his closeted business adversary.  Prostituting one’s young, does not earn any parenting awards, but it feels completely in character for G.A.  There is nothing surprising about the turn in the story, yet it must be said that the matinee audience (of a certain age and with just a hint of bridge and tunnel A.O.C.) giggled nervously with the implications.  This storyline is not meant to be funny, and in 1934 Greenwich Village socialist circles, homosexual activity would not be unknown.  I suspect a different audience would have a different response.

The cast is perfectly balanced out by Basil’s girlfriend Carol (Virginia Kull,) the business nemesis Mark (Zach Grenier) his accountant Beeston (Brian Hutchinson) and  G.A.’s second wife the (purchased title of) Countess (Francesca Faridany.)  The relationships and interactions between these characters is completely thought out and believable.  Most of us won’t commandeer a basement apartment in an attempt to rescue our international financial empire, but we can relate and understand the words and actions of all of these characters.  That is the mark of truth in writing.

This production has an overall British feel to it, no accident considering the lineage of some of the creative team.  There is a simple intelligence to the production that this play richly deserves.  There are plays that take (well rewarded) effort on the part of the audience.  I love Martin McDonagh, but you better not blink for 2 hours or you will be lost.  Additionally, plays steeped in symbolism can be a delicious intellectual exercise.  But there is something to say for clean, emotionally true drama.  And when it’s exquisitely executed, it is a must see.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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