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Theater Review: ‘Sons of the Prophet’

Playwright Stephen Karam treats death with the right amount of dramedy but the package just goes down too easy to make it memorable.

The quirky characters in “Sons of the Prophet” are rife with both comic and dramatic potential. Unfortunately, playwright Stephen Karam puts them in a silly, predictable, sitcom-style plot that can’t help but garner easy laughs and a bit of schmaltz.

It’s not great theater — really, it’s the kind of entertainment you can find watching reruns on TV Land. Sure, you’ll laugh in all the right places, but you’ll never remember to tell your friends about it.

Whether finding out one of the sons was born with one ear, both are gay, their parents died young, the romantic interest is the boss’ son or even that a kindergarten teacher is introduced to provide a hopeful ending, the whole town wonders (sometimes aloud) “what are the odds?” It’s a cute joke at first, but it goes on ad infinitum.

Most of the laughs are courtesy of the stellar performances of Joanna Gleason and Yusef Bulos. Gleason, a Tony Award-winning actress with an impressive list of film and television credentials, is sheer perfection as the ditzy widow floundering through life. Her comic timing is impeccable and her dim-witted demeanor is a delight to witness. Bulos is also flawless as Uncle Bill, an irascible old man trying desperately to survive a tragedy that has left him thinking he’s in charge. Finding the humor in the sadness, the veteran actor touches a nerve with his frank embodiment of the challenges of getting old.

Kelsey Kurz doesn’t fare nearly as well as his annoyingly overwhelmed nephew Joseph. But that could be the script’s fault — overly-wrought victims invariably make terrible leads.

Plot points

After a car accident kills their dad, Joseph and Charles Douaihy are left alone to deal with an aging uncle, a mysterious illness, a publisher looking to exploit a tenuous familial connection to Kahlil Gibran and life as gay men in a small town.

 
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