Shakespeare’s adage from Hamlet, “When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions,” seems to course through Stephen Karam’s Pulitzer Prize finalist play, Sons of the Prophet.
The sorrows arrive with such tenacity upon a Lebanese immigrant family that they become a source of humor. One character learned to identify nations from a picture-book map. Lebanon was depicted as a face screaming in agony, he says. Joseph (Adam Silver) was a runner in high school whose knees have blown out. His brother (Braxton Molinaro) was born with an ear missing and their father recently died. Their uncle (Jack Laufer) carries an oxygen tank, and so on.
Joseph works for a discredited “publisher” (Tamara Zook) — accused of inventing Holocaust stories in a nonfiction book — for the health insurance. In partial exchange for his employment, she wants him to write a best-selling book based on his family’s distant relation to author Kahlil Gibran, who wrote The Prophet — a book Joseph finds platitudinous.
Gentle absurdities flow down in a pleasing drizzle, under Michael Matthews’ lovely direction, thanks in large part to Silver’s endearing Joseph and Molinaro’s twitchy, slightly demented interpretation as his brother. The ensemble is superb in a comedy about misery, and how “character” evolves from slogging through it.
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Blank Theatre Company at the Second Stage, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; through March 15. (323) 661-9827, theblank.com.
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