Pat Launer, Center Stage on KSDS JAZZ88
January 30, 2015
Remember that old t-shirt expression? ‘Life is hard, and then you die.’ Well, suffering is what Stephen Karam’s “Sons of the Prophet” is all about. He’s created a gaggle of characters subjected to the indiscriminate and destructive whims of destiny: over two hours, calamity piles onto catastrophe.
There’s a relentlessness to the proceedings, which should be funnier (it’s billed as a comedy, after all). But it just tends to wear you down.
At the center is Joe, resident of a ravaged, Pennsylvania coal-mining town, whose father just died after a freak accident caused by a high schooler’s prank. A former marathoner with Olympic dreams, Joe is now in constant knee pain, and he’s got a raft of mysterious, undiagnosable symptoms. Meanwhile, he’s responsible for his irresponsible, mildly hearing impaired younger brother, and his irascible, outspoken, aging uncle, who spews Bible teachings from his Maronite Christian faith. The Lebanese Saint of Suffering figures prominently as well.
Joe’s boss is the hyper-verbal, ultra-neurotic Gloria, who runs a book distribution business, but was shunned by the industry for a publishing faux pas, and is still reeling from the suicide of her husband. Then there’s the foster kid, a football star, who caused the accident and is now intertwined with the family, as is a reporter hungry for a human interest story about Joe’s clan, which is distantly related to Kahlil Gibran, whose wildly popular book, “The Prophet,” provides structure and bromides.
All this sounds wackier than it plays at Cygnet Theatre, where new associate artistic director Rob Lutfy helms a game cast, though they often seem to be in different dramas or comedies. The performances range from enigmatic to over-the-top, and there’s a surplus of headache-inducing yelling.
Since no character has a notable arc of growth, reconciliation or redemption, it’s hard to find a point or meaning in this unremitting display of distress and despair. If misery loves company, don’t suffer in silence or solitude. Hurry over to Cygnet Theatre.
“Sons of the Prophet” runs through February 15, at Cygnet Theatre in Old Town.
©2015 PAT LAUNER