Pain comes to every life; some of us deal with it better than others do. A kernel of that eternal principle sits at the core of Stephen Karam’s frenetic comedy “Sons of the Prophet.”
Karam, currently charming Broadway with “The Humans,” wrote out on the contours of caricature in “Sons” and director Jef Hall-Flavin pushes Park Square’s clattering production further in that direction.
Hall-Flavin can’t consistently locate the earnest pain in Karam’s wounded characters and the result is a staging with noisy and angry energy. In 100 minutes, the play bites off more plot than the Iliad. It revolves around Joseph Douaihy (Sasha Andreev), whose father has died after a traffic accident in which he swerved to miss a stuffed deer on a dark Pennsylvania road.
Joseph is a distant relative of Kahil Gibran, a fact that excites his anxious and insecure publisher boss Gloria (Angela Timberman). Her desire to have him write a memoir only raises Joseph’s stress level.
A former champion runner, Joseph is beset by a mysterious strength-sapping illness. His Uncle Bill (Michael Tezla) is in failing health and prone to outbursts. Brother Charles (Maxwell Collyard) is an annoying twit and then comes the news that Vin (Ricardo Beaird), the young athlete who put the deer in the street (as a prank) wants to visit and apologize.
Oh, and in the midst of this, Joseph decides his life isn’t unkempt enough so he jumps into a one-nighter with a TV reporter (Dave Gangler) sent to cover the story of Vin, the stuffed deer, the Douaihy family and the community.
Karam manages moments of elegance, insight and sensitivity, but this script is tough to put on its feet. Hall-Flavin and Andreev never find a way into Joseph’s heart and the result is a performance of angry shouting. Charles is a thankless role and Collyard’s performance reflects that.
The luckiest folks in the cast are Timberman, Tezla and Gangler. Timberman takes the time to breathe some texture into the wacky Gloria, finding the beats in her character’s psyche. Tezla also modulates the crankiness of Uncle Bill and even has a moment of touching sensitivity. Gangler is straightforward and fully committed to the easy temper of the TV reporter.
Beaird should be added to that list of survivors, too. Vin stands out as a normal person — someone with dimension.
Joe Stanley’s set design serves well the need for fast changes with several hiding places on a large blank wall. Hall-Flavin’s production never lacks for pace. A quote from Gibran is used in the play as a certain galvanizing statement: “You are far, far greater than you know, and all is well.”