I rather enjoy the lowkey pleasures of Stephen Karam’s Sons of the Prophet at the Hampstead Theatre
“We’re like the Kennedys without the sex appeal”
Stephen Karam’s Tony award-winning The Humans wasn’t a play that set my soul on fire and so news of the arrival of another of his dramas, also a Pulitzer Prize finalist, got a measured response chez Clowns. Written four years before The Humans, 2012’s Sons of the Prophet also marks the first new production since a turbulent time for the Hampstead Theatre.
Bijan Sheibani’s production leans hard into Karam’s hyper-naturalism, overlapping dialogue and multitrack conversations lead us into the trials and tribulations of Joseph, a gay American Maronite Christian in rural Pennsylvania dealing with a health crisis, related financial worries and above all, the death of his father as the result of a college prank.
In the cleverly conceived openness of Samal Blak’s design, the tangled conversational threads of Joseph’s friends, family and work colleagues play out in a manner that dances in and out of thoughtful insight and everyday mini-dramas. The mood is very much lowkey, sometimes to the detriment of the comic beats of the writing, but I rather enjoyed the quirky difference here.
Irfan Shamji’s Joseph is effectively drawn, his pain-ridden physicality convincing, bleeding into his every interaction, and there’s a real connection with Jack Holden’s awkwardly flirtatious reporter. And the dynamics of this Lebanese-American family – distantly related to writer Kahlil Gibran – are given real character from brother (Eric Sirakian’s brilliant Charles) to uncle (Raad Rawi’s Bill).