Cygnet Theatre must close its outstanding production of Sons of the Prophet this Sunday, February 15.
Stephen Karam’s comedy-drama is one of those rare plays that are, often at the same time, extremely funny and bottomless deep.
Someone said that in Russian literature “everybody sofferz.” Sons fits that statement. Each character has so much emotional baggage there doesn’t seem room for more. Yet here more comes. There’s so much suffering – and this is one of the strengths of Karam’s writing — that the play itself just might implode, even before intermission.
Things began way back, but the tipping point comes when the star halfback of the high school team stood up a stuffed deer on a West Pennsylvania road. Joseph and Charles’ father swerved his car to avoid it and crashed. He died a week later, either from the accident or an unrelated heart attack.
Joseph’s a distant relative of the famous Lebanese mystic, Kahlil Gibran, author of The Prophet (which assures its readers that “all is well”). But Gibran makes little sense to Joseph. He not only lost his father. The former marathon runner training for the Olympics came down with an undiagnosable, crippling inflammation in his legs.
Now he wants to “cripple” the halfback, so he can’t play in the big game.
“You can’t stand in your pain too long,” says Gloria, who lost her husband and her job (and her mind, it would seem, until she makes this observation). “It’s like quicksand. You’ll sink, never get past it.”
Cygnet advertises the play as “their tragedy, your comedy,” and it’s apt. Each character’s a passel of woe. But when Karam brings them together somehow, some way, he mines humor and compassion from the calamity. Maybe even some healing.