Roundabout Theatre Company
Todd Haimes, Artistic Director
Sons of the Prophet
By Stephen Karam
Directed by Peter DuBois
Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre/
Roundabout at Laura Pels Theatre
111 West 46th Street
New York, NY
(Roundabout Laura Pels Theatre Website)
Yusef Bulos, Jonathan Louis Dent
Santino Fontana, Joanna Gleason
Lizbeth Mackay, Dee Nelson
Chris Perfetti, Charles Socarides
Set Design: Anna Louizos
Costume Design: Bobby Frederick Tilley, II
Lighting Design: Japhy Weideman
Sound Design: M. L. Dogg
Production Stage Manager: Leslie Sears
Casting: Carrie Gardner, CSA
Production Management: Aurora Productions
General Manager: Rachel E. Ayers
Director of Marketing & Sales Promotion: David B. Steffen
Founding Director: Gene Feist
Associate Artistic Director: Scott Ellis
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 26, 2011
The new play Sons of the Prophet, deriving its name from Kahlil Gibran, whose poetic, philosophical book, “The Prophet”, includes a page on the connections of joy and sorrow. The family featured in this play claim Gibran as a distant ancestor, and the family’s survivors inject moments of joy into their most sorrowful days. Stephen Karam has written a play with depth, introspection, enchantment, poignancy, and some very funny lines, woven through. An off-stage accident introduces the unfolding drama, with Joseph (Santino Fontana) and Charles’ (Chris Perfetti) father’s car crashing on a dark Pennsylvania road, into a decoy of a deer, which he swerved to miss, thinking it was a live animal. Vin (Jonathan Louis Dent), the town’s high school football hero, had placed the decoy on a bet and would now be on trial for the deadly prank. Bill (Yusef Bulos), a sickly, hobbling man, brother of the deceased, is raising Joseph and Charles.
Bill has never forgiven Vin, and will not forget his brother’s fate for a second. Joseph grows more compassionate over the intermission-less play, and Charles, who is gay, like Joseph, takes an intense liking to Vin, when he sees his muscularity. In these moments, humor is injected to ease the onstage and audience pain, as suffering and fear of the unknown are overwhelming elements. Much additional farce and humor are added by Joanna Gleason, as Gloria, Joseph’s boss. Gloria works in the book publishing business, and she’s looking for a break to reclaim her reputation, after a Holocaust-related fictional disaster. Gloria is collaborating with Joseph on a book about his Lebanese origins. Her office banter is high camp, but then we learn her husband had taken his own life. Again, Gibran’s philosophical balancing of life’s see-saw of peace of mind and tortured turbulence.
Three other actors round out the cast: Charles Socarides is Timothy, a newsman out to interview Joseph about Vin’s trial, who becomes an unfortunate one-night stand, in the wake of Joseph’s anger. That anger is fueled by Joseph’s increasingly frequent medical exams, none of which can diagnose painful physical symptoms. We never do learn if this was hypochondria or dire illness, but Joseph moves through each day with increasing emotional imbalance. Dee Nelson and Lizbeth Mackay, the final two cast members, are Dr. Manor, Mrs. McAndrew, and ensemble extras. Peter DuBois directs with patience for pauses, and, in these silences, we can gaze upon this excellent cast for nuanced gestural meanings. It’s in those gestures that their internalized thoughts are revealed. Sons of the Prophet is a philosophical-psychological play, that reaches into and shifts its viewers’ minds and moods. Each actor was uniquely fascinating, with Mr. Fontana, Mr. Perfetti, and Ms. Gleason the most riveting. Mr. Fontana embraced his role with refreshing naturalism. Mr. Perfetti and Ms. Gleason brought wit and endearing affectations into the sometimes searing passages.
Anna Louizos’ sets are complex renditions of Joanna’s office and the family’s modest home. The early car crash was quite dramatic, thanks to Japhy Weideman’s and M.L. Dogg’s lighting and sound. Bobby Frederick Tilley II’s costuming was thoughtful, and Charles’ outfits were especially eye-catching. Kudos to all, and kudos to the Roundabout for this persuasive new play.