Review: ‘The Power of Duff’ will indeed compel you

A newscaster becomes a spiritual leader in "The Power of Duff."
A newscaster becomes a spiritual leader in “The Power of Duff.”

“The Power of Duff” won’t necessarily make you question your own faith, or compel you to seek relief in the power of prayer, but it will make you laugh out loud — and forever change the way you look at local news.

The characters in playwright Stephen Belber’s tale of an anchorman who accidentally becomes a spiritual giant are so wonderful that it’s easy to forgive that the plot bites off a bit more than it can chew. Though the thought-provoking comedy explores such weighty topics as the search for the meaning of life, familial dysfunction and God, its brilliance comes from the delightful skewering of news and newsmakers that is at its core.

The catalyst of a sudden infusion of faith into the greater Rochester area is Charles Duff, a somewhat arrogant, disengaged newsman who closes out an otherwise unremarkable newscast with a prayer the day of his father’s funeral. Much to the floundering philanderer’s surprise, his words seem to be the answer to many of the prayers of the suffering and downtrodden worldwide.

David Wilson Barnes is excellently aloof in his portrayal of Duff, doling out “uh-huhs” and lifeless stares with convincing apathy. His inner circle — co-anchor Sue Raspell (Jennifer Westfeldt), ex-wife Lisa (Amy Pietz), son Ricky (Noah Galvin) and co-workers John Ebbs (Brendan Griffin) and Scott Zoellner (Ben Cole) — are equally adept at portraying their individual struggles to navigate his ever-shifting perspective.

The real joy of “Duff,” however, is in the performances of Russell G. Jones and Joe Paulik. Jones’ touching turn as Joseph Andango gives the show its much-needed heart, while Paulik nearly steals the show in multiple roles, including an overly enthusiastic field reporter and a slimy Google executive.

“Duff” may not be the answer to your every theatrical prayer, but this incredible ensemble will keep you happy, hopeful and entertained while you wait.

“The Power of Duff”
Through Nov. 9
BCA Calderwood Pavilion, 527 Tremont St., Boston
Starting at $25
617-266-0800
huntingtontheatre.org


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