Boston’s Huntington-and NY’s Roundabout Premiere “Sons of the Prophet”

Yusef Bulos (Bill), Kelsey Kurz (Joseph), and Dan McCabe (Charles). Photo by Paul Marotta.

Obsessed, that’s the only word to describe playwright Stephen Karam. “I was sending off my plays almost like an 8-year-old would send letters to Santa Claus,” Karam recalls. “So it was a bit of a miracle when – way back when – the Blank Theatre Company actually called and selected a terrible little play that I wrote.”

He’s talking not about Speech & Debate, of course, but about an early effort he portentously titled A Work of Art the action of which, incidentally, anticipated the setup and punch line of Yasmina Reza’s “Art” by a few years.

Now, he is on to bigger, more complex plots and characters. In Sons of the Prophet, Lebanese-American brothers Joseph and Charles Douaihy are young, gay, and having a hell of a year: A prank-gone-wrong in their small town of Nazareth, PA leads to the death of their father. Their uncle is losing it. Joseph is battling a mysterious ailment. His eccentric boss is pressuring him to write a memoir about his Maronite Catholic family’s tenuous connection to Kahlil Gibran, author of The Prophet. And an ambitious and sexy reporter descends on the family in search of a story. All of this puts the brothers’ once unbreakable sense of humor to the test. Stephen Karam, who is considered the playwright of the Facebook generation and is the author of the Off Broadway smash hit Speech & Debate, turns the Douaihy family’s epic woes into brutally funny comedy.

(Pictured above are Kelsey Kurz (l) and Joanna Gleason (r)in a moment from the play.)

“Sons of the Prophet” Photo Gallery

The essentials: Huntington Theatre Company presents the world premiere of Sons of the Prophet by Stephen Karam (Speech & Debate, columbinus), directed by Peter DuBois (Trust, Becky Shaw). The cast of the irreverent and darkly comic story includes Kelsey Kurz (The Merchant of Venice with Al Pacino) as elder brother Joseph, Dan McCabe (Donnie Darko, Saving Throw Versus Love) as younger brother Charles, and Tony Award winner Joanna Gleason (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, Into the Woods) as Gloria, Charles’ eccentric employer.

The Huntington’s production of Sons of the Prophet plays 34 performances, including 11 preview performances. April 1- May 1, 2011. Calderwood Pavilion at the B.C.A. – 527 Tremont Street, Boston, MA. Tickets are $25-$65 with various discounts available. Single tickets and FlexPasses are now on sale online at huntingtontheatre.org; by phone at 617 266-0800, or in person at the B.U. Theatre Box Office, 264 Huntington Avenue or the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA Box Office, 527 Tremont Street in Boston’s South End.

The DuBois-helmed production will play Off Broadway at the Roundabout Theatre Company next fall. The Huntington production is produced in association with the Roundabout, who commissioned the play from Karam after premiering his smash hit Speech & Debate in October 2007. Following an extended run in New York, it has received over 100 productions across the U.S. and Canada. Other plays include columbinus (New York Theatre Workshop), Girl on Girl (Brown/Trinity Playwrights Rep), and Emma (a re-imagining of Jane Austen’s novel), which will be performed this spring by the Professional Performing Arts High School in NYC. His work is published by Dramatists Play Service and Dramatic Publishing Company, and his freelance writing has appeared in The Advocate and on McSweeneys.net. Current projects include a film version of Speech & Debate and Dark Sisters, and original chamber opera with composer Nico Muhly (a co-production of Gotham Chamber Opera, Music-Theatre Group, and Opera Company of Philadelphia). A MacDowell Colony Fellow, Mr. Karam grew up in Scranton, PA (not far from where Sons of the Prophet is set) and received his B.A. from Brown University.

[Note: A production of columbinus mounted by a Lexington High School student who was censored by her principal will perform at the Huntington’s Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA with generous support from the Huntington April 13-15, coinciding with the run of Sons of the Prophet].

Director Peter DuBois is the Artistic Director of the Huntington Theatre Company, where he has directed the world premiere of Bob Glaudini’s Vengeance is the Lord’s and David Grimm’s The Miracle at Naples, Craig Lucas’ Prelude to a Kiss, Gina Gionfriddo’s Becky Shaw (which he recently directed at London’s Almeida Theatre and previously directed Off Broadway at Second Stage Theatre and the world premiere at the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville). He will next direct the world premiere of Zach Braff’s All New People at Second Stage Theatre. Prior to arriving at the Huntington, he served for five years as associate producer and resident director at The Public Theater, preceded by five years as artistic director of the Perseverance Theatre in Juneau, Alaska. Last summer he directed the Off Broadway production of Paul Weitz’s Trust starring Sutton Foster and Zach Braff at Second Stage Theatre. Prior to his work at Perseverance, Mr. DuBois lived and worked in the Czech Republic where he co-founded Asylum, a multi-national squat theatre in Prague.

Peter DuBois vents

“The depth of feeling in Stephen’s writing is ravishing,” says director Peter DuBois. “He has this incredible gift of ‘effing’ the ineffable. His play is fresh, bracing, and alive. In it, he takes the mess of our lives and turns it into phenomenal comedy. I’m so happy that we’re doing the premiere in Boston, whose audience will be incredibly receptive to this play, I think, as they already have been to Stephen’s writing.” The Lyric Stage Company’s 2009 production of Speech & Debate was acclaimed by audience and critics and received the year’s Elliot Norton Award for Best Production.

At Tuesday’s first rehearsal and “Meet and Greet” with the company, Karam told those assembled, “It’s unspeakably moving to be here with all of you. I couldn’t be more excited to see this much talent in a room for something that starts from the most personal small space. I’m very excited to be at the Huntington for this journey.”

The cast

The ensemble cast of Sons of the Prophet includes:

    · Yusef Bulos (Fiddler on the Roof, Indians, Captain Brassbound’s Conversion on Broadway) as Bill;
    · Jonathan Louis Dent (Henry IV Parts 1 & 2 with Actors’ Shakespeare Project, The Good Negro with Company One) as Vin;
    · Joanna Gleason (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, Into the Woods on Broadway, “The West Wing”) as Gloria;
    · Kelsey Kurz (The Merchant of Venice on Broadway) as Joseph;
    · Lizbeth Mackay (All My Sons, The Price, Doubt on Broadway) as Mrs. McAndrew and ensemble;
    · Dan McCabe (Donnie Darko at American Repertory Theater, Saving Throw Versus Love at Fringe NYC) as Charles;
    · Dee Nelson (All My Sons and A Christmas Carol at the Huntington) as Doctor Manor and ensemble;
    · Charles Socarides (Awake and Sing! on Broadway, Trust, The Rise and Fall of Annie Hall Off Broadway) as Timothy.

The Production

The creative team for Sons of the Prophet includes Tony Award-nominated scenic designer Anna Louizos (In the Heights, High Fidelity, Avenue Q); costume designer Bobby Frederick Tilley II (The Shirley, VT Plays festival in Boston); lighting designer Japhy Weideman (Vengeance is the Lord’s, Prelude to a Kiss for the Huntington); and sound designer M.L. Dogg (The Pee-wee Herman Show, Trust). Production stage manager is Leslie Sears; assistant stage manager is Kathryn Most.

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