Sons of the Prophet review – overstuffed drama by The Humans’ Stephen Karam

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A patron saint of symptom looms implicit Stephen Karam’s garlanded 2011 tragicomedy. Its household of Lebanese American men talk of St Rafka, canonised successful the Maronite Christian religion for her suffering, and a metaphorical fig successful this play.

We are successful Nazareth – agrarian Pennsylvania – and each subordinate of the Douaihy household seems pained. At the centre is Joseph (Irfan Shamji), a poor, cheery scion of the writer Kahlil Gibran’s family. Joseph has a mysterious unwellness and is struggling to rise the outgo of his healthcare. He and his member (Eric Sirakian) are grieving the abrupt decease of their father, arsenic is their ageing, obstreperous uncle (Raad Rawi).

Directed by Bijan Sheibani, determination is humorous repartee and immoderate sparks of searing acheronian but the comic timing sometimes feels off, and excessively overmuch is stuffed successful the publication with not capable vigor connected signifier to bring it to life. This makes it hard to support emotionally invested successful the lives of the characters.

Eric Sirakian and Juliet Cowan successful  Sons of the Prophet astatine  Hampstead theatre.
Packaging symptom … Eric Sirakian and Juliet Cowan successful Sons of the Prophet astatine Hampstead theatre. Photograph: Marc Brenner

The crippled astir the father’s car mishap – the effect of a roadside assemblage prank – is based connected a real-life lawsuit successful which an Ohio justice allowed 2 precocious schoolhouse footballers to proceed playing for their squad contempt the consequences of their prank. There is 1 footballer here, Vin (Raphael Akuwudike), who feels similar excessively overmuch of a cipher and the storyline seems crammed successful erstwhile the full play could person focused connected it alone.

Another strand involves Joe’s narcissist boss, Gloria (Juliet Cowan), a steadfast who questions wherever Joseph is really from successful the benignant of Lady Hussey and past blackmails him into penning a memoir. Through her the contented of packaging and selling idiosyncratic symptom is played retired but this is not fixed capable country to travel live either.

Some moments battalion punches, specified arsenic Joseph’s aesculapian security emergencies and his transportation with a cheery quality reporter, Timothy (Jack Holden), though intimacies betwixt them are shared excessively abruptly connected their archetypal meeting. The publication is afloat of comic lines but thing gets mislaid successful the delivery. Characters speech implicit each different excessively and the melodramatic effect of their words gets swallowed up.

Sons of the Prophet predates Karam’s 2014 deed The Humans which was adapted into a fantastic film. This has each the makings of a imaginable movie too: its intimacy, its discretely titled strands (such arsenic On Pain and On Work) and its quirky humour which feels distinctly American. But arsenic it stands, it is oddly diffuse connected stage.

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