Review by Tulis McCall
This is a gem. Period!
And it starts with the very first scene in which Joanna Gleason is transporting. As Gloria, the rich and manic woman exiled from the publishing industry to Lebanon, Pennsylvania – Gleason is untethered. Carrying on a conversation is almost more than she can bear. While she needs to be with people, the wiring to complete that task has been nicked here and there. When confronted with her assistant Joseph, who is doing his best to make sense and has been repeating himself for a few minutes, she picks up her phone that is not ringing and has a conversation that she knows is not real.
The town of Lebanon is south of Jordan and East of Bethlehem with Egypt nearby. It is home to the Douaihy (pronounced doo-wahee) whose number has been reduced by one as of the curtain rise. That one is the patriarch of the clan, who swerved to avoid a deer decoy, crashed his car and died of a heart attack two weeks later.
This is the beginning of an annus horribilis for Joseph Douaihy, the above mentioned assistant to the helium-filled Gloria. Joseph is feeling like a has-been. In high school, he was a track star. He made it as far as Olympic training until he was sidelined with a mysterious ailment that has affected the cartilage in his knees. He depends on Gloria for a job and health insurance. With his father’s death, life is looking grim.
His brother Charles (Chris Perfetti) was born with only one ear and had a prosthesis created to disguise his defect. He is still in high school and has a mind like a steel trap with a mouth that could run circles around Woody Allen at the top of his game. Both brothers are also gay. Hmnn what are the chances of that?
The Douaihy family catches a lot of that question: Gay brothers; Father killed by a decoy deer set in the road by the star football player of the local high school; Runner sidelined with mysterious knee ailment; Missing ear.; Incontinent Uncle Bill (Yusef Bulos) moving in to the downstairs to take over as patriarch; Lebanese in Lebanon, PA.
Oh, and did I mention Khalil Gibran? Yep. Seems as though the Douaihy folk are relations – by a cousin of Gibran’s grandfather several generations back.
Yep. What are the chances of that?
While the “story” is about Joseph, it is really the other characters in the play that take hold of the plot and move it forward. Gloria wants a book deal for “Sons of The Prophet” which will be the story of the Douaihy family and their connection to Gibran - even though this family has no real story. Uncle Bill wants the high school kid Vin (Jonathan Louis Dent) to pay. Vin wants to apologize, get a scholarship, and move on. Charles wants to connect with anyone who will listen long enough. The local TV reporter wants Joseph to take a chance.
Joseph is the lynch-pin because the author says so. It is his story we follow. This makes the role of Joseph especially challenging as his action is to react. Hats off to Santino Fontana who understands exactly what is called for and delivers a stunning performance.
Karam strings all these threads together with an ease and fluidity that is awe-inspiring. His dialogue is brilliant. These are people who do not speak in complete sentences because everyone is so busy talking over each other. And yet there are the still and nearly silent scenes when life is being lived without sound. Although Karam has chosen Joseph as the center of this tale – he could have chosen any of these characters, because he knows just how to reveal their secrets and hidden notions.
Peter DuBois understands that this is a ballet of relationships. He guides the characters to guide the audience from one scene to another. There is a constant flow of action, emotion and thought.
A spectacular event! This is what we always hope to see in a theatre, and the taste of a production like this is an elixir that keeps us coming back again and again.
Bravo. Drinks are on me.
"Absolutely wonderful new comedy-drama."
Charles Isherwood for New York Times
"Darkly funny and deeply touching."
Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News
David Sheward for Back Stage
"Despite some amusing lines, the evening is flat – a series of dreary, disconnected scenes."
Robert Feldberg for The Record
"A low-keyed charmer that glows with a real sense of humanity."
Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey
"Seriously entertaining, if a bit facile in wrapping up its themes."
Marilyn Stasio for Variety
External links to full reviews from popular press...