Los Angeles Theater Review: SONS OF THE PROPHET (The Blank Theatre)

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by Paul Birchall on February 12, 2015

in Theater-Los Angeles

ALL IS REALLY WELL

In playwright Stephen Karam’s touching and funny drama, characters are frequently spotted quoting the great Lebanese poet-philosopher Khalil Gabran.  “All is well,” they say, often in the midst of the most odious adversity.  Of course, all is not well at all:  Indeed, all is rather, as the Yiddish expression goes, full of tsuris.  Or, as Samuel Becket might note, “I can’t go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on!”

TAMARA ZOOK and ADAM SILVERAn atmosphere of melancholy suffuses Karam’s play – but it’s artfully blended with humor and wisdom for a mood that’s a Chekhovian mix of sadness and joy.  The play’s main protagonist, likable blue collar gay man Joseph (Adam Silver), resides in rural Pennsylvania with his Lebanese American family.  When the play opens, his father has just died in a car accident – a ridiculous tragedy that’s the result of an idiotic prank by a high school jock (Mychal Thompson) gone wrong.  Joseph is left to be the anchor of his family, which includes his quirky, damaged younger brother (Braxton Molinaro) and his irascible, increasingly frail Uncle Bill (Jack Laufer).  When the judge overseeing the case tries to postpone it so the jock can play in a football championship game, and when Joseph himself starts to develop symptoms of MS, all does not seem well.  Not a bit of it.

(L TO R) BRAXTON MOLINARO, ADAM SILVER AND JACK LAUFER

The summary makes the piece seem rather grim, and, indeed, the heavy hitting impact of the incidents is not minimized.  However, Karam’s a deft and deeply humane playwright:  His dialogue is quick, and the situations he depicts are suffused with humor and a sense of beautiful, delicate irony.  Indeed, irony is what the play is all about:  For instance, here’s Joseph, grieving and possibly afflicted with a fatal illness – and, yet, his boss is a flighty, absurdly silly book agent (an excellent Tamara Zook) who wants to turn his story into her next big book.

ERIK ODOM (L) AND ADAM SILVER

The work showcases Karam’s abilities in crafting character, and such emphasis plays to director Michael Matthews’ strengths:  The play boasts a cast of wonderfully multi-dimensional likable, and vivid characters, who all somehow manage to go on with their lives, even as the universe seems to be collapsing around them.

ERIK ODOM (L) AND IRENE ROSEEN

Silver’s sweetly innocent Joseph, who finds himself in the flux of passions and events beyond his control, is an entirely recognizable normal dude, basically lost on the dark side of the moon.   As his younger brother, Molinaro’s quirky, sweet, but damaged kid is delightful.  And Laufer, as the gravelly, ailing elderly Uncle, stands out in a role that could easily have been a cliché but is instead the archetypal personification of that daffy old relative you take for granted and you can’t even believe when he’s gone.

MYCHAL THOMPSON AND BRAXTON MOLINARO

Director Matthews’ staging possesses an up close intimacy that leaves you almost feeling as though these guys are your own family.  It’s almost a shame when the play ends, as the effect on the viewer is quite unusual:  You feel as though you’ve just gotten one of those end-of-year Christmas letters from a distant wing of the family, whom you wish you knew better and could spend more time with.

MYCHAL THOMPSON, BRAXTON MOLINARO, ADAM SILVER AND JACK LAUFER

photos by Anne McGrath

TAMARA ZOOK AND BRAXTON MOLINARO

Sons of the Prophet
The Blank Theatre
2nd Stage Theatre
6500 Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood
ends on March 15, 2015 EXTENDED to May 17, 2015
Sat at 8; Sun at 2
for tickets, call 323.661.9827 or www.TheBlank.com

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